Royal Teddy

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was the first of our Northeastern rich-boy presidents, blazing a trail for his kinsman Franklin, John F. Kennedy, and the two Bushes.  Even Nelson Rockefeller, who had no abilities and no popularity that was not bought and paid for, ended up a heartbeat from the executive mansion.  TR was also the first president to market himself as a personality.  A colorful and energetic man, head of the U.S. government at the dawn of the 20th century and at the high tide of the “Progressive” era, he played a decisive role in the creation of the America that we inhabit today.

If you are one of those who suffer from that strange, widespread American folk delusion that presidents are intrinsically interesting and that their daily thoughts and actions are subject for retelling, then Theodore Rex is the book for you.  His administrations (1901-1909) are given a thoroughly researched account at the level of good popular history or journalism.  Many readers will appreciate the close look not only at Roosevelt but at many other public characters of the period.

The author is, to my taste, a bit too eager to prove Roosevelt right on every occasion.  He wants us to accept TR as an early racial liberal, a characterization he supports by giving a few incidents greater importance than they had at the time.  Roosevelt was, after all, a believer in the White Man’s...

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