Teddy Roosevelt and Taft: The Odd Couple

Few American stories of personal fellowship are as poignant as the Roosevelt-Taft friendship—and its brutal disintegration.

Issue: January-February 2014

Doris Kearns Goodwin, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013), 928 pp., $40.00.

IN THE EARLY 1890s, when Theodore Roosevelt met William Howard Taft during their early stints as government officials in Washington, Roosevelt said, “One loves him at first sight.” Later, as president, Roosevelt extolled the virtues of Taft, then U.S. governor-general of the Philippines: “There is not in this Nation a higher or finer type of public servant than Governor Taft.” After Taft became Roosevelt’s war secretary, the president reported to a friend that the new cabinet chief was “doing excellently, as I knew he would, and is the greatest comfort to me.” Before going on vacation, TR assured the nation that all would be well in Washington because “I have left Taft sitting on the lid.” Subsequently, when Taft expressed embarrassment about a news article unflattering to Roosevelt that had been spawned by a Taft campaign functionary, the president was unmoved. “Good heavens, you beloved individual,” he wrote, suggesting Taft should get used to false characterizations in the press, as he himself had done, although “unlike you I have frequently been myself responsible.”

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