'Team of Rivals' Author Doris Kearns Goodwin Talks New Book, 'Bully Pulpit', Possible Movie (Q&A)
Doris Kearns Goodwin, the popular historian whose book Team of Rivals became the basis for the Oscar-nominated film Lincoln, is back, reintroducing another favorite president to the American public.
In Bully Pulpit she turns her attention to the bromance between Teddy Roosevelt and his successor and later rival William Howard Taft. Roosevelt was president from 1901-1908, taking office after William McKinley's assassination.
Taft was his Secretary of War and protege, succeeding him in 1908, when Roosevelt chose not to run for a third term.
She adds to this the story of the muckrakers, the crusading journalists who exposed the problems of industrialization, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, unsafe working conditions, lack of food safety, for example‚ that went along with its benefits‚ cars, canned food, electricity, among other things.
As Goodwin shows, Teddy Roosevelt had one of the most remarkable relationships with the press of any president in American history.
The book is a lively tale of a remarkable friendship, a look at a nation grappling with profound change and an inspiring account of the power of independent public service-oriented journalism.
While it's too early to say exactly what a final movie will look like (remember that Lincoln was based on one section of Team of Rivals), the nature of the book suggests it might best lend itself to something along the lines of a presidential buddy flick.
Added to the familiar Teddy Roosevelt of Rough Rider and "speak softly but carry a big stick" fame is a new personal dimension told through his close personal relationship with Taft.
The bestselling author, one-time Presidential aide (to Lyndon Baines Johnson) and former Harvard professor talked with The Hollywood Reporter while in Los Angeles.
On the touching reconciliation between Taft and Roosevelt just before his death:
Seven months before Teddy dies, Taft goes to Chicago for a meeting at the Blackstone Hotel, and he’s going up in the elevator to his room and the elevator operator says, “Oh, Mr. Roosevelt is sitting in the dining room by himself.” So Taft says, “Well then, bring me downstairs.” He goes into the dining room – it’s full of people – the wait staff is all in there. He goes over to Roosevelt and they embrace each other. The entire room claps. There was a reporter there who recorded it, and then the reporter talked to both of them afterwards and Teddy said, “I’m so delighted Taft did this.” And Taft said, “I’m so happy this happened.” Then, seven months later, when Teddy dies, he’s an honored guest at the funeral. He then writes to Teddy’s sister saying, “It would’ve made me so sad if we hadn’t gotten together before he died.” I didn’t know that that was going to happen until I followed along, but was so glad to do it. I didn’t know it at all until I did the research!
The funny ways Teddy would fit into our time:
Oh, he’d be great in the modern age. He would never have a hundred emails in his inbox! He would have them right away. They say he could multi-task. At the end of the day when he was signing mail, he brought the journalists in – that was another hour they could have with him. He was impulsive at times, so he might say some things – like for example, when he won the election in 1904, he had a big, big popular vote. He had already been President for three years because President McKinley had been killed, of course. That would mean seven years after he was finished. So, he impulsively said that he wasn’t going to run again in 1908, that he was observing the two-term tradition. He put out a statement and later said he would have cut off his wrist to have not said that because of course he wanted to run again. Twitter – he might say a few things that are a little crazy, but he’d be fit for the modern day.