Diane talks to David Corn, Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones, about what this week's Supreme Court rulings mean for limits on presidential power and the fate of President Trump's tax returns.
The nation’s 26th president was both a leader of the Republican Party and a Progressive. A new book by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin explores Theodore Roosevelt’s effective use of the press and the presidency to push his agenda. He called it his “bully pulpit.” He employed presidential power and public opinion to prod a conservative Congress into action. Under his leadership, Congress passed laws to break up monopolies, protect consumers and create national parks. Diane and her Goodwin discuss how Teddy Roosevelt got things done and his heartbreaking rift with the next president, William Howard Taft.
- Doris Kearns Goodwin Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "No Ordinary Time," "Team of Rivals" and other books.
Read An Excerpt
“The Bully Pulpit” Copyright © 2013 by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc, NY.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Theodore Roosevelt coined the term "bully pulpit." It refers to the platform he had as president to mobilize public opinion and pressure Congress to enact his progressive agenda.
MS. DIANE REHMA new book describes how Roosevelt cultivated journalists and worked closely with William Howard Taft until a rift over progressive ideals drove them apart. The book is titled "The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and The Golden Age of Journalism."
MS. DIANE REHMAuthor Doris Kearns Goodwin joins me from KTLA in Los Angeles. I hope you'll be part of the program. Give us a call 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Doris, it's so good to see you.
MS. DORIS KEARNS GOODWINI am so glad to be back with you, absolutely, what fun.
REHMThank you, Doris. Did you actually begin this biography of Teddy Roosevelt intending to focus on his relationship with Howard Taft?
GOODWINNo, it really started with a fascination with Theodore Roosevelt that I think began when I was teaching just after graduate school and had a seminar on Roosevelt and the progressive era. And I've always found him one of the most interesting, fascinating, colorful characters in history.
GOODWINBut as I thought about it I realized how many really fine biographies had been written about Teddy Roosevelt in these last years and always I'd hoped to find some sort of fresh angle. So I started reading more about his presidency. I saw the importance of William Howard Taft in it.
GOODWINI saw, of course, that he had handpicked Taft for his successor in 1908 and then the two of them had broken their friendship and run against each other in 1912. So it ended up becoming a double biography of these two men that made it so much more fun for me to have to learn about somebody that I knew almost nothing about.
REHMYou found more than 400 letters that the two had actually exchanged.
GOODWINThat's correct. They had met when they were in their 30s as civil service commissioner for Roosevelt and solicitor general for Taft and they lived right near each other in Washington. They used to walk together.
GOODWINThey saw in each other at the time almost a certain kind of sympathy because they were young reformers, fighting against the political bosses, even though it was a rather genteel reform at that time, got much deeper later, they felt that they were allies. They were opposites in every other way.
GOODWINI mean, it's just so fun to think of them together, one so physically active, the other one not. You know one, Taft who is so much immediately warm and everybody likes him and Teddy said, I envy your personality...
GOODWIN...because people fall in love with you at the first moment. It takes longer for people to get me. Taft envying Teddy's preparedness because he was a procrastinator but it was one of those cases of opposites attracting. And then they stayed in touch throughout the rest of their careers, through letters, through lunches and then of course he brings him back into his cabinet in 1905 and 1906.
GOODWINSo it was a really strong friendship and that was richer than I knew. And letters are the best. I love letters, diaries and journals.
REHMOh, of course, and, you know, the third element of this biography is really what you call the golden age of the press.
GOODWINExactly. So I mean, what I came to realize when I tried to understand what made Roosevelt's presidency so successful and why did Taft fall short? And the answer was that Roosevelt had the most remarkable relationship with the press I think of any president I've ever read about, allowing them to maintain their integrity.
GOODWINThey could criticize him. He could criticize them. But he saw them for lunch, when he was getting shaved at the barber's hour. They'd be in there, watching him getting shaved. They would come to his house at Sagamore Hill. He would read proofs of their articles ahead of time. They would read proofs of his messages.
GOODWINAnd Taft, on the other hand, never felt comfortable. He'd been a judge and judges don't get involved in the press. They don't have to explain decisions, they make them, so he never understood how to be a public leader and that was the real difference between the two men.
REHMTalk about what the country was like when Teddy Roosevelt took office Doris.
GOODWINWell, it was, you know, as we now call it, the gilded age. You had for the first time after the Industrial Revolution, a huge gap between the rich and the poor. Before that the richest person might be a doctor living on top of a hill perhaps in a small town. Now suddenly you have these cities everywhere where people are conglomerating.
GOODWINYou've got tenement slums and you've got these multi-millionaires living in mansions because the Industrial Revolution allowed those monopolies to develop in oil or in trains and then you had, at the same time, people needing some sort of help for an unregulated drug market, an unregulated food market. There was no essential regulation of the economy or business.
GOODWINAnd it was also an anxious-producing time. I mean it's so funny when you think of the pace of life today having been so sped up with the internet age but then in the 20th century they were worried that as the telegram was replacing written hand-written letters and as you were reading about international horrors in your local paper and you weren't looking at watches in the same way.
GOODWINThat people felt that speeding up was terrible and they were losing their sense of stability. They had moved from the country to the city. So you think about it today it's a hundredfold more than it was then.
REHMWell, and some of the same issues back then are certainly present today. You talk in the book about the huge division between the rich and the poor, the fact that those who had everything they needed stayed separate from those who had very little and then came Roosevelt's vision of government's role in American life.
GOODWINExactly. So I mean, he really invented in some ways the modern presidency being as he said a steward of the people with a responsibility to use government to ameliorate social conditions. Between the Civil War and Roosevelt there was just a feeling that government had no role to play and shouldn’t play a role in the economy, that in fact it would screw up the economy if it did anything.
GOODWINSo he had to educate the country to say that yes government does have a role. We have to break up some of these huge trusts. They're creating unfair prices for ordinary people. They're sopping up the economic strength of middleclass America. We have to do something about people in the tenements, about working hours, about the laboring conditions and lack of insurance that people have.
GOODWINAnd that took -- that's why the bully pulpit and that's why these journalists who were there at the time become central because the investigative journalists created stories that made people understand what was happening in monopolies, what was happening in the abuses of the railroads, what was happening in the meat packing plants.
GOODWINAnd then people got aroused up and they pressured from the outside a reluctant Congress who did not want to have to make these decisions about government. They would have preferred to keep government out of the whole situation.
REHMYou write a great deal about Sam McClure and McClure's Magazine.
GOODWINI do. I mean I felt. You know what happens? You get into these stories and I probably knew almost nothing about him before I began. I'd heard of McClure's Magazine and then I'd read in the secondary sources and in the historian's accounts how McClure's Magazine was the most important progressive magazine of the era but I had no idea that I would be introduced to this extraordinary list of characters.
GOODWINSam McClure himself was a manic-depressive, a genius of a guy who came up with a 1,000 ideas, maybe one of which was perfect and the others were crazy.
REHMAnd he had periodic nervous breakdowns?
GOODWINAbsolutely, but you know, if you had a nervous breakdown then I think it wasn't an easy time because the cure for it, when you were in a depression was to send you to a sanitarium and it was called the milk cure. All you drank for three weeks was milk and you were isolated.
GOODWINNot to be surprising, he was never cured by that kind of milk cure.
GOODWINBut when he was manic, he really had ideas. For example, he brought Ida Tarbell, the great woman journalist, into his group and the group was so close to one another. They had a real camaraderie. He gave her the idea of studying Standard Oil, paid her for two years to do her research before she had to even write the first of twelve articles that made her the Joan of Arc, the famous woman of America.
GOODWINHe brings Ray Baker, a wonderful reporter considered one of the best reporters of the time, in to study unions and the railroad situation, again having him on staff and only having to produce once he's done. So these pieces were 20,000, 50,000 words long and people read them and talked about them, passed them around and they became educated about the need for something to be done, to ameliorate these situations.
REHMTell us about Captain Archie Butt.
GOODWINOh, what is so important about Archie Butt is that he was a military aide for both Theodore Roosevelt and Taft and he loved both men. So when he was asked to stay on with Taft, at first he wasn't sure he could because he had loved Roosevelt so much, had gotten really close to Edith Roosevelt, his wife, had become part of the family.
GOODWINIn fact Teddy said to him at once, you know he loved him as much as anyone outside of his family, felt toward him like a son. But he stayed on with Taft and an aide in those days was really with that person almost all day especially with Taft.
GOODWINSo when the two men started breaking apart, when Teddy came back from Africa and began to think about the possibility of turning against Taft and eventually running against him, the heartbreak was in Archie Butt and he wrote daily letters to first his mother and then his sister-in-law and they're so emotional and they capture what these two men felt.
GOODWINSo it wasn't just a political rupture but a huge rupture in families and in emotions and in heart. And then the part that really just slayed me because it made me so sad is that by the time Teddy's about ready to announce that he's going to run against Taft for the Republican nomination in 1912...
REHMFor the third time.
GOODWIN...Archie is so -- right for the third time, right, Archie is so sad and nervous that he feels he needs to take a break so he planned to go to Europe. And at the last minute after Teddy announces Archie decided I can't leave Taft now. He cancels his reservation and Taft said, you have to go, get a rest. You'll be back by the time it really heats up.
GOODWINHe goes to Europe and he comes back on The Titanic...
GOODWIN...and he's dead. And I just felt when he died that somebody I knew had died because he wrote so well. He was a journalist himself before becoming a military aide and this was his legacy, these three volumes of his letters. So that's your window into the emotions of people and I'll forever think of Archie Butt as if I knew him.
REHMDoris Kearns Goodwin, she's historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "No Ordinary Time" about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, "Team of Rivals" about Abraham Lincoln and now, "The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and The Golden Age of Journalism." We'll take a short break here and when we come back, take your calls, 800-433-8850.
REHMAnd welcome back. Doris Kearns Goodwin joins me from KTLA-TV in Los Angeles. We're talking about her brand new book. It's titled "The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism." One person, Doris, has already written, "The popular use of the word bully to associate it with bullying the inappropriate application of power is disturbing. The old expression, more common in England than the U.S., bully for you means good for you.
REHMLikewise, to President Theodore Roosevelt, a bully pulpit meant a good venue from which to spread a message, not an opportunity to bully the public." That's from Philip in Cincinnati. Your comment.
GOODWINPhilip knows exactly what he's talking about. That's exactly right. And, in fact, whenever Roosevelt had an expression, he would often say, I feel bully. You know, it's bully and it meant good. I feel energetic. I feel fine. And he's absolutely right that it's not at all the current word bully, but it is a much more happy notion that it is a good venue, exactly as Philip said.
REHMAnd just to let our listeners know, the Hollywood Reporter on its big page says that Dreamworks is going to adapt your new book "Bully Pulpit." I hope we see a new movie, Doris.
GOODWINOh, it would be wonderful. I'll tell you, the journey that I was able to take with Dreamworks and Steven Spielberg for "Lincoln," you know, which took many years to actually happen, but it was a sense of camaraderie with the team of people there. You know, as a writer it's so much more solitary. And when you get involved in the making of a movie, you're part of a team.
GOODWINAnd everywhere we did together, so the idea of bringing Taft and Teddy and then Edith, his wife, and Nelly Taft and Ida Tarbell possibly to life. I mean, the women in this story are really interesting as well. So I'm really hoping it all works out.
REHMAnd here's another email saying, "I hope you find time to talk about TR as the first real American progressive. Today's Tea Party talks openly about rolling back the entire progressive agenda, more than 100 years of progress. Do you think the average American would be better off if we were to do that," Doris?
GOODWINOh, I think there's no question that what began in Theodore Roosevelt's presidency with a series of progressive legislations and then continued on with the new deal has provided a floor of security, a foundation for people. It made working conditions livable, provided originally a middle class, which lasted until those decades after the Second World War. We seem to be back now again in an era that has too many of these echoes of the past. It requires different kinds of regulation, different kinds of legislation. But that same impulse for social justice, for spreading the opportunities to more people, which was what the Progressive Movement was about, should stay alive today and has to stay alive, in my judgment.
REHMAnd definitely different relationships between the White House and the press. How does Teddy Roosevelt's relationship with the media contrast with that of President Obama's from your view as in an historian?
GOODWINI think there's no president who was at ease as much as Teddy Roosevelt was with the press. I mean, he really felt like he was a fellow writer. I think that made a difference too. Though he respected their works, he was able to bring them in but really say to them, you know I disagree with you totally. You don't understand the practical necessities of politics. Because he thought sometimes they might be too idealistic.
GOODWINWhat was different then from now is that there wasn't that same drive to expose the private lives of our public figures, so that Edith Roosevelt, for example, was able to draw a protective curtain around herself. She said she only should be in the newspapers when she got married and when she was buried. And she could be sure that her family was off limits in a certain sense. Although, President Obama and Michelle have really kept those kids, I think, in a protective curtain as well. I think the press really has respected that.
GOODWINBut there are other aspects of the timing. Roosevelt knew when he went out on a train trip and he came out with one of his great aphorisms or gems, you know, speak softly and carry a big stick, or when he'd have a fighting mood on or cartoons would be about him. You know, of course the cartoon that created when he was on a bear hunt and he didn't get a bear. And so they brought him a bear to shoot because the organizers felt guilty and he refused to shoot the bear. And so the cartoon had this bear that got littler and littler and littler with each rendition.
GOODWINAnd then toy store owners decided to market the teddy bear...
GOODWIN...and it became the most popular toy of all time. But, you know, there'd be cartoons of him with spectacles on and he said, I don't understand why the people keep liking me because I'm always pictured with my clenched teeth and my fist. But they loved that he loved the presidency, that he loved them, the press, and he could spar with them.
GOODWINAnd I think it's much harder today because president's are worried, if they say one word wrong it's going to be on Twitter. And they hold themselves back. And the press conferences are much more stiff affairs than he could have with these relaxed conversations with the journalists. But it helped him enormously to have that mutual respect between the two.
REHMYou know, when you were on this program some years ago, you received a call from Hillary Clinton. Tell us about that.
GOODWINOh, it turned out to be one of the great adventures because of your show. So what happened is I was talking with you about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and the fact that most of the book was set on the second floor of the White House where all these people lived together. Harry Hopkins, his foreign policy advisor, had a room there. Lorena Hickok who was Eleanor's journalist friend, lived next door to Eleanor. Winston Churchill came and spent weeks at a time. FDR is there of course. A Princess from Norway is there.
GOODWINAnd I kept saying that, I wished so much when I'd been up there with Lyndon Johnson when I was 24 years old, I had asked, where was FDR's bedroom? Where was Harry Hopkins? Where was Churchill? But, of course, I wasn't thinking in those terms. So just after I got off your radio show there was a call in the room outside from Hillary Clinton. And she was then in the White House and she invited me to sleep overnight in the White House. She said we could then wander the corridor together and figure out where everyone had slept 50 years earlier.
GOODWINSo two weeks later she followed up an invitation to a state dinner, after which between midnight and 2:00 am the president, Mrs. Clinton, my husband and I with my map in hand went through every room up there and figured out, yes, Chelsea is sleeping where Harry Hopkins was. Bill Clinton is sleeping where FDR was. And we were in Winston Churchill's bedroom, which meant there was no way I could sleep. I was sure he was sitting in the corner drinking his brandy and smoking his cigar.
GOODWINBut all because of you and it was one of the great adventures.
REHMWhat a wonderful experience that was for you. Let me ask, have you been invited back to the White House with President and Mrs. Obama?
GOODWINYes. I've been to several situations in the White House with President and Mrs. Obama. I have not been back up to the second floor again to see where everybody is sleeping now. But yes, there's still something -- I don't care how old you get or how jaded you might feel you are, every time you set food in the White House, there's a sense of pleasure in knowing that that simple, beautiful house is the house of our nation. But I've been to several social functions at the White House.
GOODWINAnd there have been these historians' dinners that President Obama has held once a year where we historians come in and talk as if we're giving advice from Truman or FDR or Lincoln or Jackson. And it's really been fun.
REHMAnd what advice do you believe Theodore Roosevelt would offer President Obama?
GOODWINWell, you know, the interesting thing is there's probably two echoes from his time. I mean, one is that when Obama got elected the second time, he talked about recognizing that he had to bring pressure from the public on the outside to get to congress, because congress was dysfunctionally unable to act on its own. And the difficulty I think is that the bully pulpit today has diminished in power. It used to be that when a president gave a speech, the whole speech would be reported in the newspapers. You could command the print waves.
GOODWINAnd then when FDR got on the radio, 80 percent of the radio audiences would be listening to him. Even in the early days of television when there were only three networks, you knew you were getting the speech. Now, before you've even finished with the president's speech, pundits are taking it apart. You're only watching your own network possibly and you're only hearing excerpts of it. But it still remains an important tool for the president, I think, to educate the country and make them understand what needs to be done and put pressure on their congressmen and senators.
REHMThe other echo of course in the past is wondering what's going to happen with the division within the Republican Party. Because you saw in 1912 when the two wings split apart, in that case the progressive wing and the conservative wing, now you have the Tea Party wing and the more establishment wing. Then they try and have a third party or even just the rupture itself and the Democrat Woodrow Wilson won. So it's a danger for the Republicans to look back and see what the consequence was of not solving that rupture within them.
REHMWhat is it that really happened between Teddy Roosevelt and Howard Taft?
GOODWINI think what happened is Teddy believed that Taft would carry out his legacy. And he thought he was the best man to do it. When Teddy was off on his whistle stop tours or his hunting trips, Taft was considered the acting president. He had been governor general of the Philippines. He had this extraordinarily warm personality. Teddy went to Africa deliberately to give him space so that he could become president. And several things happened to Taft.
GOODWINHis wife Nelly who was really his partner, his chum, she loved politics much more than he ever did, had a devastating stroke only six weeks into his presidency.
GOODWINAnd I think it just altered the course of history because she could never speak in a connected language away. And she'd been the one who wanted him to be in politics. She was the one he depended on for her sensitivity, her diplomacy. She had already done a great job as first lady. She had created a park, a municipal park, Potomac Park in Washington. She brought the cherry trees over. She had democratic functions in the White House, bringing a lot more people in there than had been there. She was working about working women.
GOODWINAnd she would've been an anchor for him because he was never at ease in that number one spot. And then after that he lost some focus. He didn't do well with the first big reform he had, the Tariff Reform. The progressives felt he had compromised too much. And then they went to Teddy and they said, he's making deals with the old guard, the people you hated. And Teddy began to feel that Taft had betrayed him. I don't think that's true. I think he just fell short as a public leader.
GOODWINSo he started talking about maybe running against him and then the progressives said, we need you, we need you, we need you. And then finally when he decides to do it, as Taft understood, once he went against somebody he had to really go against them to justify it. So the language they used against one another, particularly Teddy against Taft, saying he was a fat head with the brains of a guinea pig, you know, a puzzle whit, a thief.
GOODWINAt the Republican convention when they were both trying to get the nomination, they had 1,000 policemen there with guns. I mean, it was really dramatic. People would tear each other's badges off in the hallways. And finally Teddy bolts the convention when he knows he's not going to win the nomination, Forms that third party, the Bull Moose Party. And then of course the die is cast from then that they're going to split the vote and the Democrat Wilson is going to win.
REHMDoris Kearns Goodwin. Her new book is titled "The Bully Pulpit." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Talk about the contrast between Roosevelt's wife and Taft's wife, Doris. They didn't get along.
GOODWINCorrect. I mean, and what's really interesting is that in many ways Roosevelt's wife Edith is looking back to the past. She came from a family that lived right near Teddy Roosevelt in Union Square. And her family had once been wealthy. Her father went bankrupt, became an alcoholic. And so she had a rather disordered childhood. And the Roosevelt family was almost her anchor. And they were girlfriend and boyfriend from the time they were little.
GOODWINBut then when he went to college he finally fell in love with another young woman named Alice. He married her and Edith thought that was it. The only man she'd ever loved she had lost. But then Alice died in childbirth and eventually he came back to Edith. And they had a really joyous marriage. But her idea of being First Lady was to be a private person and she just wanted to have a sanctuary for her ever manic husband.
GOODWINAnd in contrast, Nelly Taft, as a young woman, same age, was unconventional. She grew up in Cincinnati. She smoked when she was young. She went to the beer halls and loved to be with the working class. And she wanted a life of her own beyond just getting married. So she started teaching, much against her mother's will who thought she'll never come out in society if she's trying to teach all day. But she found in Taft -- she thought she wouldn't marry but she found in Taft someone who valued her independence and allowed her to become this larger person than she would've been.
GOODWINBut somehow the two of them -- because one represented a more new woman and the other one the older women, and maybe because they saw some sort of instinct that these two men would go against each other someday weirdly -- I mean, they talked about it -- they never became the same friends that Taft and Teddy did. And that too may have altered history.
GOODWINSome of these funny things that happen that you just wish you could go back and say, Nelly, you two really are closer than you think you are. You both read a lot. You're both smart. Get together. But of course you can't make them do that
REHMAll right. We're going to open the phones now, 800-433-8850. First to Patrick in East Lansing, Mich. Hi there, you're on the air.
PATRICKHi. Doris Kearns Goodwin, I just want to thank you so much for "Team of Rivals." I think it may be the best book of history I've ever read and I'd just be so grateful (unintelligible) ...
GOODWINOh, thank you so much.
PATRICKI had Frank Firdell (sp?) as a professor in college who was a great historian of Franklin Roosevelt. And he always used to say that Franklin Roosevelt stood on the shoulders of Teddy Roosevelt. And he knew that FDR would never like that comparison. So my question is, when Teddy Roosevelt came to the presidency so young and then -- so unexpectedly and then came right out of the blocks with his first speech to Congress about breaking up the trust and then had all of those lawsuits filed by his attorney general and was so vigorous against the monopoly in so many industries, what was it about his presidency that allowed him to do that? And what lessons could our current President Obama learn about that?
PATRICKBecause he came to the presidency at a similar time where the economy was melting down and there was a need to regulate Wall Street, which never happened, and a need to regulate the monopolies which also never happened. And the same thing going on in both presidencies was this dramatic rise of the role of money in politics. And Teddy Roosevelt had witnessed more money poured into politics by these trusts than at any time in our history. And President Obama witnessed the exact same thing.
REHMAll right. Briefly, Doris.
GOODWINI think Frank Firdell would be very proud of you.
REHMBriefly, as a comment on what lessons President Obama could take from that, Doris.
GOODWINWell, I think what Theodore Roosevelt was most concerned about in the antitrust suits that he filed was he thought that government representing the people as a whole should have more power than these big financial entities. And he felt that they were running the country in a certain sense. They had the money. They paid the money to the bosses. They could rule elections and they could prevent regulations from happening. So it wasn't just even breaking them up for their own right as much as saying they're not doing this fairly. They're preventing small businesses. We have to use the hand of government.
GOODWINSo essentially he was asserting the fact that I as president represent the people and I'm going to be more powerful than any of you. And that was the most important lesson that he was saying that -- and he got campaign finance. He was the first one to get -- corporations could not contribute to campaigns. That's the very law that's been overturned in recent years.
REHMThe "Bully Pulpit" is the title of Doris Kearns Goodwin's new book. Stay with us.
REHMAnd we'll go right back to the phones, to Kerry, in Annapolis, Md. Hi, you're on the air.
KERRY (CALLERHi, Diane. Big time fan.
(CALLERMy question is, like you guys were saying, there were many parallels with Roosevelt's era with the work conditions and corporations running amok with lack of regulation, which were addressed by books like "The Jungle," and people were disgusted. But nowadays when lack of regulations cause problems, like with the pink slime and the Texas manure plant explosions, the stories just seem to be swept under the rug and no one talks about them for more than a week. But my question is what has changed with the press and the people of the general public to ignore history repeating itself?
REHMThat's really a good question. Doris, do you want to comment?
GOODWINAbsolutely a great question. I've been trying to think about this. I think what happens is our attention span today is so fragmented, breaking news happens, it seems, every three days. So we might start focusing on something, like on gun control. It really looked maybe after Sandy Hook that the country…
GOODWIN…as a whole wanted to do something and then there gets to be -- nothing happens in Congress and then we move on to yet another issue. What was different at that time is, for example, exactly as he said, Upton Sinclair writes "The Jungle," people get -- common conversation, we have to do something about the lack of sanitation in these meatpacking plants. And the pressure is brought to bear. Finally, Congress has to do something it didn't want to do, to regulate it. And nowadays, you know, you may get some little pop up where you hear a little investigation about something bad, and then the next thing you know we're worrying about something overseas or worrying about Syria or were worrying about, you know, some entertainment problem.
GOODWINAnd it's a real worry in a fragmented media age where people's -- even the reporter's attention span is divided because many of them are now on television, they are blogging, they're doing Facebook, they're doing Twitter. And it used to take a long time for these journalists to do these investigative stories, that then became a story. Story is the key. What made people care about these issues, you have to really explain them. You have to make them understand why it happened and what it did and do it in human terms. And that's how people used to identify with what was happening in Standard Oil or the meatpacking plants.
GOODWINThey were stories. And I'm just not sure that we have the time or the attention or the resources in the journalism world to allow people to have that luxury of producing stories that really make an impact. And then even if they do, we're onto the next thing before some sustainability can happen.
REHMAnd have the journalism corporations themselves sort of backed off of pushing reporters into doing those long reports, those intensive investigations?
GOODWINI think that's probably right. I mean I know there's a few places where it's happening, but the thing that was so emotional for me, when I looked at these journalists who were the muckrakers at the time, but that was eventually a badge of honor, and they wrote really fact pieces. These are not sensational pieces. These are historic, factual pieces. They later looked back on this period of their lives as their golden age because they knew they had a mission and a call. And that they were changing the country and making it better. And later one of the journalists -- they'd all get together on Sam McClure's birthday in the '30s and '40s and remember what it felt like when they, as a group, were working together simultaneously and wishing that another generation of journalists could come along…
GOODWIN…and have that great sense of accomplishment.
REHMAll right. To David, in Denver, N.C. You're on the air.
DAVIDYeah, hi. I would like to take issue with something that Ms. Goodwin said regarding Roosevelt leading to the New Deal, in which she characterized as good due to the fact that it provided security. I think it's led to a welfare state, which has created a whole class of people who are dependent on the government and have been that way for generations. And now with Obamacare I believe it's going to even expand that even more.
GOODWINWell, I think there's a balance that has to be met. I mean there's no question, I think, that social security has provided security for older people at a time in their lives when they should be able to live with dignity and with some kind of health after having worked all their lives. You know, there's no question that some of the regulations that provided maximum hours and minimum wages, allowed people to have decent working conditions when they're working. I mean, if there are people who are not trying to work and are not using their talents in whatever discipline they have and are simply depending on somebody else for them, of course that's a problem.
GOODWINI always think probably it's less than what we think it is because there's got to be an impulse in most people of pride and dignity and wanting to do something, but when a job is lost and they don't have the skills, it really goes back to the education system, I think, underneath it. If we can have a better public education system where more people from the time they're young are taken out from the ghetto areas, from the areas where there's not a good family background for them, where there are gangs and they can learn what their talents are, then they go through the system and they don't need the system to depend on.
GOODWINEven FDR said we're not doing this for people to be dependent. We're just getting them a chance. And this is even what Lincoln said, everyone should have a chance to exercise their talents as far as they will take them. And T. R. would say, I’m not for poor people who don't try. I'm not for rich people who are unfair. You're fine if you're rich. You're fine if you're poor, as long as you're trying and running by the rules. And that's why the Square Deal was such a perfect brand name for what he was trying to do and what we should be doing today.
REHMDoris, a number of people are asking about Theodore Roosevelt and race.
GOODWINWell, Roosevelt had a complicated relationship with race. On the one hand he invited Booker T. Washington to the White House for a social function, which as innocent as that seems to be, at the time sparked enormous outrage. People were furious at the idea that there was an equality between a black man and a white man in a social dinner at the White House. On the other hand, when he ran the Bull Moose Party he decided to try and reach the more liberal white southerners to be in the delegations and not have the traditional African Americans, who were part of the Boss structure down there.
GOODWINSo that was a disappointment for a lot of people like Jane Adams. But in that time race was not a priority for him. He didn't make advances in the racial issue. Luckily, there were racial leaders coming along, whether it was Booker T. Washington or others, that were beginning to do it for their own people, but it's not something one would look back as a hero for him, but nor was he behind the times. He's sort of right in the middle of where a lot of the country is at that point.
REHMI see. All right. And to St. Louis, Mo. Hi there, Fred. Go right ahead.
FREDHi. Thanks for taking my call.
FREDMs. Goodwin, my question is this -- well, first a quick comment and then a related question. I think today we have four powers. Of course executive, legislative, judicial, but I think we have the lobbyists who, checks and balance wise, they write checks, they have no balances. How do you contrast today's lobbyists and the big machinery, bureaucracy that it is with the time of Taft?
GOODWINIt's a very good question, too, because, in fact, Teddy Roosevelt is the one who coined the phrase special interests. And what they were afraid of in that time was that the financial interests and business interests had such powers in the local state governments, in the political bosses that ran the cities, that there were really an invisible web that connected the business community to the politicians in the cities and the states and eventually in the national government. And that's part of what he was fighting against. I mean he would talk about special interests, which really are the lobbyists today.
GOODWINAnd you're also right, though, it's just become exponentially larger. And it has become bureaucratized. It's part of every industry. It's part of the committees in Congress. And it means that the voice -- Teddy Roosevelt once said everybody deserves a voice in the Congress, but nobody deserves to own a senator or nobody deserves to own the process.
GOODWINAnd that's what was happening then. I mean you had senators that actually represented -- it was worse then. They would represent oil or they'd represent tariffs or they'd represent wheat or whatever. And they were called millionaire senators. And it was much more blatant then, but the same problem exists, I think in an even worse way, today. And it all goes back to campaign finances. That still seems to me a poison in this system.
REHMAll right. To Indianapolis. Hi, there, Pierre.
PIERREHello. Thanks for having me.
PIERREHi. I'm a political science professor at the Marin University here in Indianapolis, and I have question, but first I want to say that I grew up in California and I graduated from William Howard Taft High School in Woodland Hills, Ca.
GOODWINI didn't even know that existed. I'm glad to know. That's great.
PIERREIt does, yeah. It does. And my favorite president actually is Teddy Roosevelt, so it's kind of interesting that…
GOODWINYou're my guy.
PIERREI'm looking forward to reading your book. In my classroom I often talk about the importance of leaders in history and I use the idea of a counterfactual. And so one of the counterfactuals that I use is what would have happened if Teddy Roosevelt would have won in 1912? And he, in 1914, when World War I broke out, as you know, he was a major advocate of America getting in quickly. And I'd like you to maybe share your thoughts on what you think might have happened had he won in 1912, would the United States have gotten into the war in 1914? And if so, what do you think might have happened?
PIERREI mean, is it actually conceivable that the war might have ended before the Russian Revolution? I mean how could history have taken a very different turn had he won in 1912?
GOODWINWhat a great way to think. You're absolutely right. Counterfactual history is the fun thing for all of us who love history. What if this, what if that. I think if he had won in 1912, first of all I think the Progressive Movement would have been strengthened. It got diminished because of his loss, and then they didn't field their own candidate again after that. And the wing of the Republican Party that represented the progressives got weaker over time. But I think there's now question he was already feeling that Wilson was much too slow to involve himself in the war.
GOODWINHe was calling for him to do things earlier. It's both the strong and the weak side of Roosevelt that he thought war was necessary at times and a purifying thing. I mean sometimes when I hear him talk about war it's not the kind of Roosevelt that I love. But necessarily he saw that that war was probably should be fought. And I think absolutely he would have gotten in it earlier and prepared us earlier. And he was writing articles, even as just an outsider, on the lack of preparedness and that Wilson wasn't doing enough. So suppose he had done all that. He prepared even for the Spanish American War when he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy. While the Navy Secretary is on vacation, he's getting boats moved all around, telling the Nave Secretary stay, it's hot in the summer. You don’t want to be here.
GOODWINI'll take care of things. Don't worry. So I hadn't thought about the final part of your question. What a difference that would have made. Oh, my God, if the war had ended before the Russian Revolution, then history is totally changed. And that’s what's so fun. So your students must love it because I think that's a great way to just think about history takes one route, but it could have, with one little change, taken an entirely different route.
REHMPierre, thanks for your call. You know, you've got to wonder if this extraordinarily energetic man, always on the move, some people might wonder whether with the 40 books he wrote he was a genius. Do you think so?
GOODWINYou know what he says about himself? He said he was an ordinary man with extraordinary perseverance. And I think that's right. He had a whole series of talents. I mean he was a birdwatcher, but he said he didn’t have great eyesight, yet he became a pretty great birder. He wasn't a great shot, but he became a world class hunter. He said of himself, I'm not a great writer, but he wrote 40 books, some of which were quite good. And he was president of the United States. And governor and -- he's got more energy than anyone I've ever read about.
GOODWINI think part of it was having asthma as a child and he was becoming an invalid and timid and he read all the time and he observed the birds. So he developed that side of his personality that loved nature, but at one point his father said to him, Teddy, you don't have the body. And without the body your mind can't go as far as it should. And he said I'll make my body. So from then on he became this strenuous exerciser, which was huge. I mean every day in the White House he'd be walking in Rock Creek Park, he'd be having tennis matches, raucous wrestling bouts and that physical energy gave him mental energy.
GOODWINAnd I've never read about anybody who could do so many things at one time. He never put anything off.
REHMIt sounds exactly that way. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Raleigh, N.C. Hi, Ethan. You're on the air. Ethan, are you there?
ETHANYeah, I'm here. Can you hear me?
REHMSure can. Go ahead.
ETHANAll right. Well, I suppose my question might actually be a little bit in that spirit of I'll make my body by Teddy. So you've spoken, Ms. Goodwin -- hello.
ETHANThank you. You've spoken several times about the fragmented way in which we consume information in today's culture and society. And you've also mentioned a little bit about the invisible web that might contribute to the way that fragmented news is presented. My question is how can we as individuals, as consumers of information in today's society, with all the various things that we have going on, etcetera, that are part of today's culture, how can we begin to change our consumption of information in a way that is conducive for a more a complete perspective on issues and on the substance of matters, rather than fleeting ideas and maybe social and political biases?
REHMBoy, that's a tough question, Doris.
GOODWINOh, I mean, if I knew the answer to that -- I mean I thought about that so much in the seven years of writing this book because on the one hand, maybe it's the makers of the news that you hope can tell the stories in a more compelling way, that it's not just information, but it touches the emotions and the explanatory powers of the people. But he's right, what about the other end? Even if you get the people who are writing about the news -- we have more information than we've ever had before.
GOODWINBut we don't have understanding. We don't have understanding of what's happening. And most people will say, I don't really know what's going on. Why is this happening? Why are they so dysfunctional? And it's very deep, what's happening. There's a lot of structural problems in the government. And maybe those districts that are in some ways allowing only extremists to happen, it may be the television rewards people on one side or the other. The political culture in Washington has changed and they're not friends across party lines.
GOODWINThey don't have a common military background, as they did in the '50s and '60s, having served in World War II together, so there was a sense of common mission across party lines. Campaign finance is still at the middle of it. The money, the time they have to spend raising money, all of which means -- at that end, but what about us? I mean that's his question. I mean how do we -- we're fragmented, too. In everyday life it's so much more fragmenting.
GOODWINThe last six months when I was working on the book, I was behind deadline. And it was the happiest I've been as a writer, I think, because I had to stop everything else. I couldn’t go on television because I knew I couldn't be on "Meet The Press," talking about Syria if I wasn't reading about it.
REHMYou had to focus.
GOODWINThe only thing I was reading was the sports pages in the morning because the Red Sox were doing so well. But there's something about that focus, when it's -- you can just -- but life isn't allowing very many of us to have that kind of focus anymore.
REHMDoris, in just 20 seconds, tell us what you believe President Obama could learn from studying Theodore Roosevelt?
GOODWINWell, I think the most important lesson that Roosevelt imparts is that keeping connected to the people as a whole in a Democracy is the essential trait of a leader. I mean Roosevelt went out on those train trips, you know, months at a time, talking to people at village stations, talking in homely language. He said my Harvard people might think I talk in homely, folksy language, but I know I’m reaching them. He knew how to explain things.
REHMAnd he did.
GOODWINHe knew how to repeat things over and over again. And the people felt an emotional connection. They loved him. I mean they called him Teddy. That was an intimate thing. Even though he didn't like being called Teddy, he was Teddy to them.
REHMDoris Kearns Goodwin. Her new book, "The Bully Pulpit." Doris, congratulations. I look forward to seeing the movie. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
New York Times education reporter Dana Goldstein on whether schools will reopen this fall -- and the impact on students and families if they don't.
Harvard Professor Danielle Allen on what a democratic response to the pandemic would look like, and why this country has fallen short.
Diane talks with journalist Michael Schuman, author of the new book "Superpower Interrupted: The Chinese History of The World."