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June 23, 2014

Two presidents whose legacies involved different 'bully pulpits'

Ada —

A former boss of mine reveled in the fact his facial features bore a close resemblance to those of Teddy Roosevelt, America’s 26th president. To that end, he always wore a Roosevelt style mustache that grew naturally beneath his nose, and wire-rimmed glasses that rested on the bridge of his nose that didn’t.

No one would go to such lengths to look like William Howard Taft, Teddy Roosevelt’s successor in the presidency, and for an obvious reason. Teddy was a dynamic leader who eventually regretted having announced at the start of his second term that he would not seek a third. 

Taft was, at best, a reluctant candidate. According to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s excellent book “The Bully Pulpit” Taft never wanted the job. His great ambition was to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Kearns said he only campaigned for the presidency for two reasons. One, his wife pushed him in that direction, and two, Roosevelt saw him as a natural choice to continue the progressive reforms he, Roosevelt, initiated.   

Kearns did her usual masterful job of weaving all the elements of the story of these two unique characters in American history.  

To say Roosevelt and Taft were personally close understates the case. Roosevelt knew he could count on Taft to handle sticky political situations with great skill, and Taft demonstrated it by reconstituting a government in the Philippines following the Spanish-American War and later in staving off revolution in Cuba. 

Roosevelt had assumed the presidency only six months into Pres. William McKinley’s second term when an anarchist’s bullet ended McKinley’s life. An appreciative electorate awarded Teddy the office again, at which time he announced he would not seek a third term out of respect for George Washington and others who had refused to seek third terms. 

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