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Doris Kearns Goodwin On Teddy Roosevelt and the Progressive Era

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin on protest, reform, Teddy Roosevelt and America then and now.

In this Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 photo author Doris Kearns Goodwin stands near a bookshelf for a portrait at her home in Concord, Mass. Goodwin's latest book,"The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism," was released on Nov. 5. (AP)

In this Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 photo author Doris Kearns Goodwin stands near a bookshelf for a portrait at her home in Concord, Mass. Goodwin’s latest book,”The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism,” was released on Nov. 5. (AP)

There are a handful of times in America’s history when the country has transformed, says historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Shed old ways and emerged anew — an altered country.  She’s told that story in the history of Lincoln and the Civil War.  FDR and the New Deal.  More.  Now Americans of many stripes are wishing for a transformation again.  Dissatisfaction with the Washington status quo runs high. And this historian is telling the story of Teddy Roosevelt and the transformation of the Progressive Era.  This hour On Point:  Doris Kearns Goodwin, and what it takes to change America.

– Tom Ashbrook


Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer-Prize-winning American historian. Author of “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.” Also author of “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” “No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II,” “The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga” and “Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream.” (@DorisKGoodwin)

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: A ‘Bully’ Defying the Bullies of His Era — “Without explicitly verbalizing them, ‘The Bully Pulpit’ points up the many parallels (and crucial differences) between the Progressive era at the turn of the 20th century and the country today: a squeezed middle class; growing gaps between rich and poor; an escalating debate over the role that the federal government should play through regulation, taxation and legislation; public frustration with a ‘do nothing Congress’; questions about White House leadership; and an often poisonous schism within the Republican Party.”

Dallas Morning News: Book review: ‘The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism’ — “As Roosevelt addressed crises such as a crippling coal miners’ strike, he would not, as Kearns writes, ‘be confined by precedent or bound by fear of failure.’ Roosevelt himself later wrote that a president may assume that ‘he has the legal right to do whatever the needs of the people demand, unless the Constitution or the laws explicitly forbid him to do it.’ This assertiveness characterized his presidency.”

Politico: Doris Kearns Goodwin weighs in on Chris Christie, William Howard Taft and big personalities — “Goodwin’s latest tome examines the Progressive Era’s first decade, the friendship between Roosevelt and Taft, and the muckracking press. She says she had always wanted to write about Teddy Roosevelt, noting that “he presented a more colorful, interesting, larger-than-life figure than most presidents do” but that she struggled to find a unique angle to the story not previously covered by other historians.”

Read An Excerpt From “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism” By Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Kearns Goodwin In The WBUR Studios

Doris Kearns Goodwin in the WBUR Studios (Jesse Costa / WBUR)

Doris Kearns Goodwin in the WBUR Studios (Jesse Costa / WBUR)

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  • JGC

    The opening excerpt from “The Bully Pulpit” reads “Theodore Roosevelt receives a hero’s welcome in New York on June 18, 1910, following his expedition to Africa”. I recently found a copy of his book describing his trip; I was taken aback by his concern for the elephant population even then as he was at the forefront of the conservation movement,

  • RolloMartins

    Everyone loves to put the hug on Teddy, but please mention how he ruined Latin America. They hate us to this day, and for good reason.

    • TFRX

      I wonder, literally, what else would have happened.

      I know United Fruit still would have been there.

      But what happens if McKinley isn’t assassinated, Taft follows him, and TR never becomes anything but vice president, then followed by Wilson or someone else? (Also, would the Republican establishment have given TR another position the SecWar or SecState in McKinley’s second term?)

      Would have that affected this country’s galavanting military incursions into Latin America, and in what manner.?

      • Roy-in-Boise

        TR would have eventually run for POTUS.

    • geraldfnord

      My father, an enlisted man to his core, could never cotton to T.R. after hearing that he volunteered for the Spanish war and promptly went to Abercrombie & Fitch for his uniform.

      • J__o__h__n

        Teddy didn’t have the abs to shop there now.

      • Don_B1

        But T.R. did understand the conditions of the less than wealthy better than most others. He did support reforms that would give the overwhelming majority of citizens a much better shot at a good life. He was not reviled by the wealthy for nothing.

      • TFRX

        Your remark may confuse the folks who buy from A&F in the last couple of decades.

        Myself, I’m having trouble imagining TR’s well-kept frame, shorn of body hair, becoming an A&F model.

  • Leonard Bast

    “The Bully Pulpit” is my Christmas gift to myself this year. I bought it and stowed it away until December 25, though I expect it’s going to be harder to wait to open it after listening to today’s program. Thank you, Ms Goodwin, for helping to revive old-school narrative history, every bit as compelling to read as a novel and most welcome in a society now largely focused on the brief, the immediate, and the trivial.

    • Ray in VT

      If you haven’t read the Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris, then I would recommend doing so. It runs nearly 800 pages, but the way in which it is written makes the pages fly by.

      • Leonard Bast

        Read it, loved it. Another great read on TR is David McCullough’s “Mornings on Horseback.”

  • Renee Engine-Bangger

    Who is Doris plagiarizing now? Oh wait, she got a pass on that.

    • Don_B1

      She did not get a “pass” on that. But she accepted the condemnation with an apology while going back and determining what had happened that led to its occurrence.

      Last week in an interview on C-SPAN with Brian Lamb, she was asked about it and briefly explained how she has been able to live through it.

    • ToyYoda

      I don’t think plagiarism is as bad as people make it. I think there’s a great value is having a scholar who has read epitomes of other people’s works, understand it, and can reorganize the knowledge to make it presentable to the uninformed public.

      If they forgot to footnote some interesting paragraph, I think that’s understandable. I’ve read so many books that I can’t remember where I got some of the facts I remember. At some point it becomes personal background knowledge. Do you know every source of all your knowledge?

      Sure, you can’t call someone a scholar if they just cut and paste passages and assembled it into a book, but I doubt that is what Ms. Goodwin has done.

      To put it in perspective, all of us have paid experts for their expert knowledge, financial advisors, mechanics, IT specialists, doctors, etc. I think most of them have never had a truly original idea, even the PhDs. A truly original idea, well that’s an extremely rare thing.

      So, I’d cut her some slack.

      • brettearle

        What a great comment.

        I appreciate your words.

        As a writer, I salute you.

        The comment, above yours, is primitive, ignorant–and a petty put-down.

        It shows, and reveals, much more about that commenter’s character than it does about any misgivings, that we should have, about Goodwin.

        If NPR objected to Ms. Goodwin, she wouldn’t be on. And, in my view–and in the view of many–NPR maintains a great deal of journalistic integrity.

        Thanks again for your comments.

      • Don_B1

        What Ms. Goodwin’s plagiarism came from was a sloppy handwritten note system on index cards, from which some quotes were transferred to the book without the footnotes (see her documented explanation for the details, which I cannot remember) between revisions, etc.

        The vast majority of her quotes made the transition properly.

        From her reputation and other detailed attributions in other work, I can accept her explanation as not intentional.

        • brettearle

          You know what it is?

          You probably do…..

          It’s the “I gotcha attitude” that is one of many dysfunctional shibboleths that are out there in our culture.

          The plagiarism is so minor–as to be almost scant.

          This incident–and others like it–stems from the petty jealousies of others, especially from the coterie of pompous and obscure scholars in academia.

          • Labropotes

            I thought it was funny when folks discovered plagiarism in a Dylan song that begins, “Spirit on the water, darkness on the face of the earth.” Copied almost straight from the bible!!!

          • brettearle


            Straight out of Petty Jealousy.

            The Novel, SET THIS HOUSE ON FIRE (by William Styron) has the Title, directly from a quote from the Bible.

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    How long will we have to wait for Ms. Goodwin’s biography of Obama?

    Is she disappointed that Obama didn’t take her advice and emulate Lincoln by building a “team of rivals”? Instead Obama surrounds himself with sycophants and yes-men.

    Will she compare and contrast the leadership skills of Obama and Lincoln and TR? Imagine Lincoln, in the wake of a bitter defeat at Chancellorsville, responding by going to 7 fund raisers on the West coast or perhaps yet another round of golf.

    • TFRX

      Lemme guess: You’ve been told you’re spending another Thanksgiving at the kiddie table. So you have to have a little fit at something, anything.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        No, we’ll be faithfully reading the WH talking points propagandizing Obamacare. We must start the youth training ASAP. Sieg heil!!!!

        • JGC

          From Kathleen Parker’s recent op-ed in the Washington Post:

          “What is the impulse that drives our need to make such comparisons? The impulse is to elucidate, i.e. this is as bad as that. But it is also partly lazy. Do we really have so little imagination that all we can do is summon…Hitler to denote our impression of bad? Surely it is a rhetorical crime to turn someone so evil into a cliche…

          Comparing a horrific tragedy or atrocity to any other thing else trivializes it and diminishes it…we trespass on the sacred. Some things are like nothing else – and should be left to rest in peace.”

          Now, go have a nice big slice of pumpkin pie, and try not to obsess so much over Obamacare during the holiday gatherings. And watch the Hitler references, especially if you’re around somebody celebrating Hanukkah.

          • TFRX

            Jeez, it’s almost comical that Kathleen Parker is the reasonable sounding one compared to the original poster.

          • Ray in VT

            I don’t know. Sometimes I read her column and it doesn’t seem way out there to me, but maybe that’s just relative to some of the other columnists on the right.

          • JGC

            TFRX and Ray: Parker is part of an increasingly rare breed – the moderate Republican, disappearing faster than one of Teddy’s beloved African elephants.

          • TFRX

            How did she become a modern moderate Republican?

            Did she stay the same* or move leftwards?

            *Cos there’s no quicker way to lose your cred inside the Beltway to say “The GOP Went Wingnut on Me” out loud.

          • Don_B1

            I think she more or less stayed the same. She still harbors a lot of Republican talking points that have been thoroughly debunked, from Climate Change being a minor thing being used by Democrats for their own enrichment to stimulus spending not being effective. Standard fare. She just has not (yet) been willing to my knowledge to adopt the real crazy stuff like Kenyan, Muslim, and worse, etc.

          • Don_B1

            Right from the debate over Saddam Hussein’s role in 9/11 to today’s comparisons, Republicans have never worried about invoking Godwin’s Law.

          • Labropotes

            This comment caused me to contemplate Godwin’s Law. I think the reason the likelihood of Hitler or Nazis coming up approaches 100% in long threads is that Hitler et al. have become the symbol of unadulterated evil. When people truly disagree, the disagreement with be one of principle — almost axiomatic, sacred in a certain context. When one wants to say that another’s position is Evil the word evil won’t do. That could mean castor oil. One turns to the paradigm of ‘Evil,’ Hitler. I bet this mainly happens in the USA and Canada.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            jgc doth protest too much, methinks.

            Indoctrination BAD

            “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
            ― George Orwell

          • Ray in VT

            I don’t see how condemning the use of everything that you don’t like is Hitler/Nazi is obliterating one’s sense of history. It seems to me that tossing around the Nazi card or comparing the ACA to slavery is the height of the lack of a proper understanding of history.

          • J__o__h__n

            And when the right quotes that socialist Orwell.

          • Labropotes

            I agree the quote was played gratuitously, but Orwell gives communism quite a licking in Homage to Catalonia and Animal Farm.

            Let’s try to understand WftC, though. Central governing powers tend to grow and tend eventually to enter the hands of psychopaths. That is the history he fears is being overlooked. Rather than acting like he’s a kook, let’s think about what safeguards might best protect the liberty and stability we all value.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            It was oblique reference to the most effective government indoctrination regime in modern history used to punctuate a satirical post.
            You guys are projecting a bit.

          • Ray in VT

            How am I projecting? I am merely commenting upon the hyperbole to which some stoop that shows, I think, a lack of historical perspective.

          • Don_B1

            And planting false ideas about the history of this country is what the radical right wing is all about these days.

            Example: Michele Bachmann’s claim that the Founding Fathers all worked diligently from the first day of the United States to ensure that the slaves were freed.

            WOW, WOW, WOW ! ! !

          • Ray in VT

            I just saw Colbert run a clip of that again on a rerun last night. Surely she can afford someone on her staff who has taken at least American History 101 to check that stuff over before she opens her mouth.

          • J__o__h__n

            That’s why they fired the shot heard round the world at Concord, NH.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            I’m not sure if Bachmann actually said that but the fact that is plausible is one reason I am not a fan.

          • Don_B1

            Watch the Colbert Report program, repeated last night, which has the tape of her saying it, in a nice irrefutable form!


            It includes some other real dumb statements from her and others also.

        • Don_B1

          Well, you have apparently read and memorized the Tea/Republican “working memo” on the scorched-earth approach to derogating the PPACA:


          Sounds like the Republicans and their minions (including you) are more likely to be marching to your sign-off salutation!

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            I’m not affiliated with the GOP and I’m not aware of any ‘memo’.

          • Don_B1

            You don’t have to be “affiliated” with the GOP to be their “Sock Puppet,” just one who is an ideologue without the integrity to check out the meaning and downside of the things you advocate for.

          • TFRX

            Yessireebob, there are No Republicans Here. Just principled independents who can’t stop spewing their crap.

          • jefe68

            I guess the diatribes are coming through the foil hat….

          • Don_B1

            It’s available in PDF form and is called the House Republican Playbook: Because of Obamacare … I Lost My Insurance.
            and it is full of false and misleading claims.

      • Leonard Bast

        Hahaha! Perched on a little chair spewing out half-chewed turkey and half-chewed talking points, as the poor kiddies sit there and stare in astonishment!

      • jefe68

        Not the kiddie table… the regressive right wing meme table.

    • J__o__h__n

      He didn’t create a team of rivals? Where did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton come from?

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        What influence did Hillary exert on Obama? Where did she change his mind? And what were her accomplishments?

        Like everything Obama, Hillary’s appointment was part of the political calculus. Everything he does is political — thus his failing Presidency. As Obama’s former pastor put it: “The Chickens are coming home to roost”.

        • Don_B1

          You were in all their Cabinet meetings and other private meetings?

      • TFRX

        And Chuck Hagel? I mean, back in the Senate he was practically a double of Bernie Sanders.

      • StilllHere

        From his desperate attempt to establish legitimacy. It failed.

    • brettearle

      Your cynicism, I believe, is inflated.

      But, Obama does, sometimes, suffer from a paucity of management skills.

      And underneath it all, sometimes, he may actually harbor a lack of follow-through–which may stem from a subtler form of the all-too common, My-Way, Or-the-Highway MO.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        My cynicism has been built on a foundation of 5 years of observation. It gives me no pleasure.

        TR and Lincoln were different in style but both effective leaders. The contrast with Obama is stark.

        Lincoln is interesting in that he was not a proven leader prior to the Presidency. He was quite remarkable.

        • brettearle

          Neither of us have any idea how Lincoln or TR might have withered under the 24/7 microscope that is the current modern Media.

          I would argue that this sort of information explosion is making it harder, and harder, for Presidents to do competent work.

          The Public’s Right to Know is essential–but not to the point where we need to criticize, for example, the President–for the kind of Bus, he hired, to go across the country, selling his Jobs-Stimulus Bill.

          McCain couldn’t wait for a photo-op on that one.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Times are different. Yes, it is worthy to consider. But are they really? The North was divided pretty evenly during Lincoln’s tenure. Lincoln suffered harsh scrutiny from the newspapers of the day. [I just read that the local Gettysburg newspaper issued a retraction of their 150 year old review that panned the Gettysburg Address].

            I’ve always been skeptical of Obama because of his thin resume and lack of leadership experience.

          • brettearle

            Well, I’m torn, really.

            I see his faults.

            But, frankly, for my money, he is the most personally likable President, in my lifetime.

            I could list so many problems that he has encountered that, I think, are overwhelming–since he took office:

            Gulf Spill; Newtown; Birther Movement; the Inheritance of 2 wars; the inheritance and continuation of TARP; OBL; Assange; Snowden; Fort Hood; Marathon Massacre; Benghazi; Fast & Furious; his Aunt and Uncle; Citizens United; the Recalcitrant Tea Party, Hurricane Sandy; Congressman Giffords ….and that, of course, is only a partial list.

            Obviously, I realize that you don’t agree with me.

            But I think he is being maligned much too often for things that aren’t totally or, at all, his fault.

            There’s a difference between delegation and things that happen on his watch.

            There’s a difference between micromanagement and delegation.

            Ultimately, you are only as good, often, as the people you choose, with whom to surround yourself.

            He’s made some mistakes in the Personnel department.

            One glaring mistake he might have made was not to have bribed Rahm Emanuel to have stayed on.

            But the biggest error was his bungling of the way he has handled ACA.

            I still support ACA, but he trotted it out much too quickly and without proper oversight.

            But you CANNOT convince me that the GOP–apart from forcing him to dilute the policy, before passage–didn’t try to systematically destroy a principle that was first proposed by their beloved Think Tank, the Heritage Foundation.

          • Don_B1
          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Likeable? That is an interesting question. Unfortunately, the likeability quotient is always discerned through the ideological lens. Much slack is given for mistakes, incompetence, etc. if the intent is accepted ideologically..

            I have a good friend (a centrist who leans a little right on the size of government) who could not stand Bush-43. He had a visceral reaction every time Bush spoke. Despite Bush’s many problems in office he was still considered ‘likeable’ by a majority of the public.

            I once heard a voice expert say that Obama has an incredible voice for public speaking. There is something about the resonance that is soothing.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            “But you CANNOT convince me that the GOP–apart from forcing him to dilute the policy, before passage”

            -The law was almost completely written by the Democrats. I don’t see how you can pin blame on the GOP.

            -btw, I don’t think Obama had much of hand in crafting the law either. He accepted it and supported it but he didn’t design it.

            -I don’t believe the Heritage plan looks anything like the ACA. Yes, they have the mandate in common but little else. Perhaps, if the ACA had limited the mandate to catastrophic coverage only without $2.6T worth of central planning bells and whistles…

            -My personal view is health care should not be run by the Feds but by the states. There are two simple reasons: local accountability and the states must balance the budget so any largess must be paid for by the current generation.

        • Fredlinskip

          Don’t find myself often doing so, but must give you a “like” on that comment there, Worried.

    • jefe68

      Typical. A show about Teddy Roosevelt and a right wing regressive has to roll out an Obama meme.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        Did you listen to the show jefe? Ashbrook was asking for comparisons and lessons for today within the first fifteen minutes of the show.

  • andrewgarrett

    It seems like a lot of today’s progressives bemoan the loss of good middle class manufacturing jobs, where the working father could afford a car or two and could afford to send his children to college. Ok. So to fix this, do we deny manufacturing jobs to the developing world, where the poverty rate has sunk to the lowest in history, where globalization has allowed a billion people to escape extreme poverty, and where the middle class is growing? How is that “thinking globally”? The “system” is in fact working: poverty is drastically declining around the planet. The progressives acknowledge this, as they fret about more people in the developing world using cars and eating meat. You might say, “Well, we want (other) people to be poor so that they have a smaller ecological footprint and lead simpler lives,” but that’s a separate issue. If you are worried about distribution of wealth, on a global scale you’re getting what you want: globalization is distributing wealth.

    • J__o__h__n

      Emptying out the middle class while the poor get slightly better and a class of super rich is created isn’t progressive.

    • Don_B1

      The improved living standards of the world’s population is why many progressives do support trade; but what they also support is a much larger effort to mitigate the downside of that in better job creation for those who do lose their jobs to foreign imports, and I do mean a much larger training effort and also job development so there is work for those who get the training. What has happened with NAFTA and most trade agreements before and since has been not much more than token efforts, particularly in comparison to the profits that the companies have reaped but not shared with their workers.

      Also, progressives know that just encouraging development in the third world will end up leaving the poor, which always suffer the most in disasters, with the disaster of climate change. So progressives also are pushing to develop sustainable energy sources rather than just building more fossil fuel plants.

  • Yar

    Go back? We are here, look at recent statements from Pope Francis, the poor are very close to uprising.

  • Labropotes

    As TR is gaining power, Civil War vets would have been near a max of their political power. What was their effect?

    I ask because John Keegan says that Civil War vets became a uniquely politically active cohort, having fought to maintain a union based on a certain view of the American project.

    • Ray in VT

      I wonder if they considered him to be some sort of whipper-snapper, as he was, I think, the first President in the post Civil War era who was not a Civil War veteran. Perhaps it is somewhat analogous to the World War II generation versus the Baby Boomers. I also wonder if some of those vets who had seen the horrors of Gettysburg or Petersburg perhaps considered Roosevelt to be something of an inexperienced loose cannon.

  • Roy-in-Boise

    Wow, I never thought that I would rejoice at the news of Spealburgh making a movie, but the time has come for TR’s story as a reformer to be told … Bully great idea, bring it on!

    • brettearle

      Why don’t you like that filmmaker?

  • Coastghost

    Pardon, but this show sounds at least a bit like WBUR’s invitation to put on Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton for some John Reed and Louise Bryant. Which does make a colorful matinee in fine autumn starkness. (Eugene O’Neill does displace Eugene Debs entirely from that narrative, though, it pays to recall.)

    • geraldfnord

      Yes, because everyone to your left is exactly alike.

  • Yar

    Who will fund that two years of research? Student loan debt prohibits self financed research. We need the forth estate.

    • Don_B1

      Tea/Republicans don’t understand the idea of basic research so they think the private sector will and should do it all, which shows how out-of-touch they are with the business community, particularly high-tech and pharmaceuticals, both of which rely on government initiation of research in basic science and technology.

      That is why they have no problem with cutting research on body/cell chemistry with applications to cancer prevention and cure, new technologies like the Internet was some thirty years ago, etc., when V.P. Al Gore DID provide the leadership in getting funding to develop the first computer-to-computer communication at DARPA.

  • Sabina82

    Today, progressivism and inequality are related to race/ethnicity. I’m curious about TR’s ideas about race, especially African Americans…and perhaps also white ethnic immigrant minorities who faced discrimination at that time…

    • Barbara Moore

      Really good point. Wasn’t this a time of KKK and other violence in the Deep South? Nothing said about this by DSG or Tom. Nowadays issues of race can’t be ignored by a populist leader. TR might not have had so much popular support if he had taken it on.

  • geraldfnord

    Fun fact: many on the right of the Republican Party explicitly condemn all of the changes of the Progressive Era, though (out of party loyalty) they demonise Wilson (though never for his egregious racism…) more than T.R., who did much more and more jarringly. I think it was Rove who said that he’d love to bring the nation back to 1895, save technologically.

    I put this down to their funders and idols, the malefactors of great wealth (as another Roosevelt’s speech-writer put it) who resent _any_ limitation of their power, but also an educational failure to let people know just how much of a nightmare history has been. Child coke-sorters? The Triangle Shirtwaist Company? The Comstock Laws? Without history, our problems don’t seem to have been created by people, but rather just the natural course of the world….

    • J__o__h__n

      The Republicans thought that sticking him as vice president would keep him quiet. Rove’s hero is Mark Hanna.

    • Ray in VT

      And Taft always seems to get lost in the shuffle. He only served the one term, and he wasn’t very happy (I have read) in the White House (at least compared to his time at the Supreme Court), but he did quite a bit regarding carrying on the agenda of Roosevelt’s administration in terms of taking on the trusts and such.

      • Don_B1

        William Howard Taft was offered a Supreme Court appointment twice by T.R., but refused it both times because he wanted to finish the task (job) he was in at the time (when the second offer was made he was in the Philippines).

        But T.R. did not think he had been aggressive enough in working on completing T.R.’s agenda, which is why he ran as a Bull Moose in 1912 and guaranteed the election of President Wilson.

  • Labropotes

    HL Mencken’s dad used to say, “the republic won’t survive the century!” That was in the 1880′s. The cure is here, now, with Americans agreeing there is a problem and having a meaningful, friendly conversation about it. That is the Republic, the “public thing.”

    • Fredlinskip

      Meaningful friendly conversation is a rare thing amongst politicians these days. To be fair, many of these politicians are simply supporting the views of their most vociferous constituents- such is the result of redistricting as Goodwin points out at very beginning of program.

      How for example can government function if because of “Hastert Rule”, no bills that pass in House of Representatives can have one iota of bipartisanship in them?

      • Labropotes

        I’m not sure of the impact of that rule. But when I am intransigent, it’s often because I believe that my views or desires are not being acknowledged.

        We need to understand each other. We must want to understand each other. Our innate tribalism, or something, causes us catch at symbols to justify indignation… and heightened self-worth. It’s starts with us, not with pols.

        Right now, they have us divided over phoney issues while the “warring parties” govern in all things that most matter by consensus.

        • Don_B1

          There are two big issues that have the wealthy class in a dither:

          1) Restoring job growth so the economy can regain its vitality that it has not had since the 1970s, though the wealthy have been more than satisfied since their wealth has been growing just fine. They are adamant that they should not suffer one bit to help restore the economy even though it was their rent-seeking and speculation with excess earnings that created the housing and derivatives bubbles that, when they popped, created a balance-sheet recession that was almost as large relatively speaking as the 1929-1930 recession that triggered the Great Depression. It was only that the Federal Reserve took an aggressive program to keep the economy liquid, unlike in 1930 when Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon advised “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate.” See:


          for a more complete quote in the context in which it was said and how it compares to those who would repeat the experience of the Great Depression today.

          But the wealthy have recovered from the financial crisis of the Great Recession and they just blame everyone else for not being smart enough to do likewise, and do not consider the lack of aggregate (purchasing) demand for goods and services which has created a lack of jobs and thus the slow recovery.

          2) Climate Change, which will be devastating to all life over the next 1000 or more years and, more importantly, to human civilization over the next 50 to 200 years. But to mitigate the effects of the release of CO2 into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels for energy it will be necessary to empower government to coordinate that effort which will require taxes and regulation. And that is anathema to “free-market,” no regulation radical right wingers, just as regulating cigarettes was because of the documented cancer-causing residues in tobacco smoke.

          Thus the wealthy have marshalled all the cunning misworded themes that have been focus-tested by radical conservatives (only they could make such an oxymoron accurate) since Barry Goldwater lost the 1984 Presidential Election. These themes are designed to get the 99% to fight among themselves rather than make the 1% honor a rational social safety net which would really grow the whole economic pie for everyone, rather than let the current rules continue to let the wealthy siphon off up top 95% of the increased profits while the workers are left to divvy up the remaining leftovers.

          • geraldfnord

            To be a bit of a broken record: broadly speaking, it was only Fear of the Bolshies that drove them to act as if they were decent in the first place. The election of a self-declared Socialist in Seattle might be a good sign, because without doctrinaire Socialists and Communists with well-known views, the wealthy feel they have little to gain by being humane, and at the same time it becomes perilously easy for anyone to describe anyone to their left as being doctrinairily socialist or communist, thereby invoking those snarl-words and turning-off rational thought.

        • Fredlinskip

          I whole -heartedly agree with most of your assessment. There are less and less people that truly wish to invest the time to truly understand these issues.
          But with a less and less truly informed public, the more we end up with the government “we deserve”.
          We need more people willing to read books by Goodwin and others. History matters, lest we repeat the same mistakes ad infinitum.

          And we must learn to engage in respectful discourse.
          Nowadays, if Congressmen were seen actually conversing in a friendly bipartisan manner, it would be splashed all over our sound bite media within minutes until these folks “came to their senses” and went back to their opposite corners. I exaggerate, but only slightly.

          Goodwin spoke to these issues fairly eloquently pointing out that in TR’s day, Congressman actually maintained friendly relations “after hours”.
          It is difficult these days when one party seems to maintain that even the word government is a “dirty” one.

  • Casey Culver

    Is Snowden the new journalist?

  • Ellen Dibble

    I believe it was on this program — maybe elsewhere too — that I heard E.O. Wilson explain in scientific terms that species that figure out how to cooperate are the ones that survive. That is our challenge.

    • Labropotes

      EO Wilson would also be the first to point out the superorganisms that don’t eliminate freeloaders will fail as surely as those that don’t cooperate. Successful social animals are ruthless in ferreting out useless members of their groups.

      • nj_v2

        Don’t know much about zoo-ol-ogy…

      • geraldfnord

        Primitive herd animals, yes; primates not as much. The primate hierarchy takes a lot out of many of the organisms in it—those lower always will largely outnumber those higher-up—so a certain amount of mercy is necessary in order to keep the buy-in of those whose genes are close to the ‘useless’ member…and even a ‘useless’ hominid makes your band’s look more imposing when screaming and flinging fæces at the band next door when company’s expected.

        Beside that, ‘freeloader’ is not necessarily a permanent category…the cleverness necessary to being a good freeloader can be useful to the group in other contexts. Beside that, humans are clever enough that we’ve managed to repurpose our insane as priests and shamans, our depressives as artists, our psychopaths as heroes and C.E.O.s

    • nj_v2

      And yet, here we have the current crop of Teabaglicons whose philosophical basis is social Darwinism.

      It’s a jungle out there; you’re on your own; if you fail, it’s your own fault.

      Look, there’s one right below v

  • Fredlinskip

    TR was a Progressive Republican.
    GOP and Dems have switched their priorities and their voter base at different times in history.
    What about Lincoln?
    Slavery at time of Civil War was a time- honored “Conservative” notion in America.
    “Conservative” stronghold has always been centered in the South- especially the Deep South.
    There was no officially “Progressive” party in Lincoln’s day.
    Yet Lincoln was more progressive (in literal sense) then “conservative”.

  • Barbara Moore

    There’s plenty of passion in politics now: on the Right. Plenty of young people running for office: on the Right. The right-wing media is hugely effective. DSG and Tom are looking for love in all the wrong places.
    Also: Obama could have been hugely effective but as soon as he was elected he withdrew to an aloof perch. It’s a character issue, he just isn’t really a populist.
    Also: ironically, the Civil Rights movement tarnished big government as a protector and champion of the white working class. In TR’s day, what was going on with Black people? I don’t think he was championing them. Nowadays society is integrated enough that when you talk about programs for the poor, white people think that means programs for black people.
    I’m a liberal, by the way, it just looks like this to me.

    • geraldfnord

      T.R. was considered a flaming radical because he spoke out against lynching and invited Booker T. Washington to an informal lunch at the Executive Mansion. This changed nothing because black people were generally not allowed to vote (using colour-blind—at least prima facie, oh Grandfather Claus—laws), and those who did almost always voted Republican which meant little in the South, In Chicago and New York, there _were_ Democratic inroads in the voting African-American population, largely because the Republicans did nowt of substance for them from 1876 onward.

      Note that your opposition of the Civil Rights movement to the government’s being a protector of the white working class holds in reality only to the extent that they are really opposed. Sometimes they are: even though affirmative action has become the excuse of every mediocre white man who didn’t get a job—just as age discrimination is _obviously_ the reason any mediocre man above age forty has trouble getting a high-tech job, and racism why every mediocre black man wasn’t hired, it seems reasonable to say that white working-class Americans have lost-out.

      (I think the mediocre black men have more cause: as badly as affirmative action might tilt things, which is more than I like but less than many think, and as bad as age discrimination is, neither were held up as the acme of moral and Godly behaviour that racism used to be…a dear relative raised in the ’30s in southern Illinois, in an area where the ‘southern’ mattered much more than the ‘Illinois’, got physically queasy the first time she saw black people eating in the same restaurant as she, realising only later that their presence indicated to her that ‘it couldn’t be a nice place’ because black people in her hometown were kept out of ‘nice’ places with physical force, either by the police or allowed by them.)

      On the other hand, if elimination of prejudice means that their wages no longer keep everyone else’s wages lower (and so the services of black strike-breakers weren’t purchased as easily as they were when Samuel Gompers became poisonously racist thereby), and if white working-class people decide that just being white no longer is of enough comfort to make up for being rooked, they would have benefitted.

      That’s reality, in my arrogant and entirely accurate opinion…on the inside of people’s heads, which is what counts, it’s wide open, and so far the distortion has been way to the costs side.

  • Mary Agee in nashville

    Just this week, heard the FDR quote, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” As Doris spoke about the pessimism in thd country, I feel that so many people are caught in the fears (future unknowable thoughts) and this leaves them feeling powerless and unable to act. Also , most on the bully pulpit are talking about problems and not offering any solutions. Thanks for an excellent show!!!

    • Labropotes

      “A President once said,
      ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’
      Now, we’re supposed to be afraid.
      It’s patriotic in fact and color-coded.

      And what are we supposed to be afraid of?
      Why of being afraid.
      That’s what terror means, doesn’t it?
      That’s what it used to mean.”

      Randy Newman

    • Don_B1

      Not only does it leave many people powerless, but also at risk for agreeing with the first “carpetbagger” that comes along with a theory that will only make things worse (austerity to lower the deficit, being prime right now).

      • Labropotes

        I strongly agree with this general concern. It will be about resource allocation.

        Don, the folks consuming the resources today

  • marygrav


  • Bruce94

    Great show today on the eve of Thanksgiving–a time for remembering all the things for which we ought to be grateful including the brand of journalism epitomized by Lincoln Steffens (a writer I hadn’t thought about since high school) and pols like Teddy Roosevelt whose vision would be emphatically rejected by today’s extremist iteration of the GOP who would undoubtedly confer RINO status on him because of his two major initiatives–the anti-trust laws curbing the excesses of corporate power and the conservation movement creating a model for sustainable resource use and a national parks system that remains the envy of the world.

    Unfortunately, Teddy Roosevelt is not the only former GOP standard bearer who the Tea Party-dominated GOP would likely condemn as heretical. Others that would receive similar treatment include:

    –Abraham Lincoln for elevating human rights above States’ rights.

    –Dwight Eisenhower for warning of the dangers of military-industrial expansion and for completing one of the largest infrastructure projects in our history, the interstate highway system.

    –Ronald Reagan for compromising with his ideological opponents by raising taxes and closing tax loopholes after recognizing that his supply-side experiment had failed.

    • geraldfnord

      Given that they don’t understand the diversity of opinion among the Founders, i think most of them would be out. As for the Founders, many of them though ‘democracy’ a bad word precisely because to them it implied rule by a mob led much more by their passions than by reason, truculent, fickle, and definitely not the sort with whom these landed gentleman would want to share an ale or allow to vote.

      • Don_B1

        Almost a year ago (30 November 2012) the Wall Street Journal published an interview with Harvey Mansfield by Sohrab Ahmari. Professor Mansfield was celebrating his 80th year and 50th year of teaching at Harvard, currently the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Government and an outspoken proponent of conservatism.

        See: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323751104578149292503121124

        First Professor Mansfield seems to have a different view of democracy than even the Tea Party (or maybe not?):

        “Consider voting. ‘You can count voters and votes,’ Mr. Mansfield says. ‘And political science does that a lot, and that’s very useful because votes are in fact countable. One counts for one. But if we get serious about what it means to vote, we immediately go to the notion of an informed voter. And if you get serious about that, you go all the way to voting as a wise choice. That would be a true voter. The others are all lesser voters, or even not voting at all. They’re just indicating a belief, or a whim, but not making a wise choice. That’s probably because they’re not wise.’”

        I have not had the occasion to read more deeply into Professor Mansfield’s philosophy of government, but that does not seem far from Plato’s Ideal of an elite chosen to run the country (or elect the rulers of the country) rather than the rabble (avoidance of the latter which was not that far from many of the Founding Fathers’ minds, also).

        But it does cross one’s mind that Professor Mansfield would require voters to take great responsibility for making the effort to be an educated voter on the issues and not be a member of a “riotous” crowd, just following some Pied Piper.

        But then Professor Mansfield reveals a profound ignorance of economics and other political issues, as a reader of the WSJ article can determine.

        Since most of the Founding Fathers were conversant with Greek and Roman history as well as Medieval history up to that of the 1700s, particularly the “Religious Wars” that had characterized that period, some other ideas of Professor Mansfield as presented in the interview are interesting:

        “His first teaching post came in 1960 at the University of California, Berkeley. In California, he came to know the German-American philosopher Leo Strauss, who at the time was working at Stanford University. ‘Strauss was a factor in my becoming conservative,’ he says. ‘That was a whole change of outlook rather than a mere question of party allegiance.’

        “Strauss had studied ancient Greek texts, which emphasized among other things that ‘within democracy there is good and bad, free and slave,’ and that ‘democracy can produce a slavish mind and a slavish country.’ The political task before every generation, Mr. Mansfield understood, is to ‘defend the good kind of democracy. And to do that you have to be aware of human differences and inequalities, especially intellectual inequalities.’

        “American elites today prefer to dismiss the ‘unchangeable, undemocratic facts’ about human inequality, he says. Progressives go further: ‘They think that the main use of liberty is to create more equality. They don’t see that there is such a thing as too much equality. They don’t see limits to democratic equalizing’—how, say, wealth redistribution can not only bankrupt the public fisc but corrupt the national soul.

        “‘Americans take inequality for granted,’ Mr. Mansfield says. The American people frequently ‘protect inequalities by voting not to destroy or deprive the rich of their riches. They don’t vote for all measures of equalization, for which they get condemned as suffering from false consciousness. But that’s true consciousness because the American people want to make democracy work, and so do conservatives. Liberals on the other hand just want to make democracy more democratic.’

        “Equality untempered by liberty invites disaster, he says. ‘There is a difference between making a form of government more like itself,’ Mr. Mansfield says, ‘and making it viable.’ Pushed to its extremes, democracy can lead to ‘mass rule by an ignorant, or uncaring, government.’”

  • Bruce94

    Great show today. I hadn’t thought about writers like Lincoln Steffens since high school. He along with pols like Teddy Roosevelt are hard to find these days. Unfortunately, Roosevelt would undoubtedly be rebuked by today’s extremist iteration of the GOP as a RINO for passing anti-trust laws and establishing a national parks system. Other former GOP standard bearers who would also likely receive similar treatment for their heretical acts:

    –Abraham Lincoln for elevating human rights above States’ rights.

    –Dwight Eisenhower for warning of the dangers of military-industrial expansion and for completing one of our largest infrastructure projects, the interstate highway system.

    –Ronald Reagan for compromising with his ideological opponents by saving social security in its current form and by raising taxes and closing tax loopholes after recognizing that his supply-side experiment failed.

    As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, we can indeed be grateful for pols like these who were able to use the Bully Pulpit for constructive purposes.

    • Fredlinskip

      Progressives all!
      (ahem…except for Reagan).

      • Bruce94

        Thanks for the reply. I was out of pocket for the holiday, but wanted to acknowledge that you are, of course, correct. In Reagan you’d be hard pressed to find any progressive tendencies much less “strong progressive tendencies.” His “welfare queen” and “government Is the problem” memes have certainly stoked the right-wing anti-govt., conspiracy theory paranoia exhibited by extremists like the Tea Partiers, who are the antithesis of progressivism.

        Reagan, however, did reverse himself in the face of political and/or economic realities, and by the end of his second termed proved to be anything but the apostle of small govt. conservatism–the theme that he adopted for his political campaigns, but could not apply as a governing principle. The “Gipper” engaged in record deficit spending and raised the national debt to a level unprecedented in U.S. history. After cutting spending for items like Food Stamps, EPA, Education, Medicaid and Public Housing (decidedly anti-progressive actions), he ultimately agreed to the biggest peacetime tax increase in U.S. history–TEFRA. And far from shrinking the size of the fed. govt., he wound up expanding the fed. workforce.

        Not that any of the above is indicative of progressive tendencies…but may be indicative of tendencies to compromise sorely lacking in our gridlocked political institutions of today.

        • Fredlinskip

          I believe that Reagan began a long-term detrimental anti-government trend. His movie star optimism was welcome change to many Americans distaste for Carter’s “tighten-your -belt” realism- which propelled him forward on a winning smile for a while.

          So now we have legislators elected to serve in government because they hate government. Not a good combination.
          In private sector, it would be like saying, “I would like to work for your company because I hate your company and I want to bring it down.” -Yet somehow they are elected.

          Presently because of “Hastert Rule”, by definition, nothing passes out of the House unless there is absolutely zero bipartisanship. Small wonder 112th was least “productive” Congress in history.

          The “accomplishments” by Reagan you cite are most “indicative” of the GOP’s collective inability to remember what the domestic legacy of his administration actually was.

          He did work with Democrats during his “reign”, but was lucky enough to be blessed with Congressional Democrats who were willing to put “country over ideology” and work with him.

          I am personally fascinated with likes of TR, Lincoln, Eisenhower (and others), for one, because it seems GOP are blinded to the fact that these guys would likely not be in their party today, but somehow tend to act as if these Presidents were “their guys”. Republican and Democrats have switched priorities at different times in our history, But “conservativism” and “progressivism” have always been in opposite corners.

          That said, I realize that all individuals and Presidents have some of both tendencies- it’s just a matter of degree.

          As far as Goodwin is concerned, to me it is very interesting to hear what someone who has devoted their lives to these studies has to say and how in her opinion it relates to today.
          (Of course, even she might hold back a little- she wants to sell some books to both “camps” after all).

  • Robert Gilbreath

    The movie, Lincoln, told the story as well as possible in just under 3 hours. Having read the book, I was disappointed. It is my hope that Mr. Speilberg chooses to make it an extended mini-series, allowing for a full telling, including nuances. After all, this format made even Downtown Abbey a blockbuster, I can only imagine the impact The Bully Pulpit could have not only as entertainment but as a gateway to national dialog,

  • Regular_Listener

    I have at times wondered why Doris Goodwin so frequently turns up in the media as an expert on politics and the presidency, but when I look in bookstores or libraries, her works are not so prominently displayed. Surely there are other historians besides her and handsome Michael Beschloss who deserve a shot at the soapbox. But I don’t watch much TV anymore, so my impressions could be out of date.

    And as far as the plagiarism charges against her, at least from what I read in Wikipedia, it could very well have been the result of sloppiness rather than an attempt to defraud, but that is still something to be concerned about.

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