Theodore Rexis the story--never fully told before--of Theodore Roosevelt's two world-changing terms as President of the United States. A hundred years before the catastrophe of September 11, 2001, "TR" succeeded to power in the aftermath of an act of terrorism. Youngest of all our chief executives, he rallied a stricken nation with his superhuman energy, charm, and political skills. He proceeded to combat the problems of race and labor relations and trust control while making the Panama Canal possible and winning the Nobel Peace Prize. But his most historic achievement remains his creation of a national conservation policy, and his monument millions of acres of protected parks and forest. Theodore Rex ends with TR leaving office, still only fifty years old, his future reputation secure as one of our greatest presidents.
Should I list some of the remarkable things Theodore achieved during his presidency? Is that what you want to know? The Panama Canal, the Pennsylvanian coal strike settlement, negotiations to end the Russo-Japanese War and the Moroccan crisis of 1906 for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize, the National Conservation Conference and anti-trust legislation, to name but a few. By reading the book you will understand the magnitude of each accomplishment. You will understand how he pulled off these accomplishments and why he chose to do what he did. Who is Theodore Roosevelt? How did his mind tick? Was he brave? Was he moral? Was he impetuous? Yes, yes, yes! Did he make mistakes? Of course! Perhaps Brownsville was one. Read and judge for yourself.
Please read this book. You will be astounded by the exuberance of this man, by his intelligence and his morals. More than just discovering what he did you will discover how this man was under the surface. He is complicated. How could he be both a hunter and a conservationist? How did he balance might versus right, wealth versus labor’s demands? I cannot adequately explain how he looks on African-Americans. I’d have to write a book to explain this accurately, but that is not necessary since you have this book. You end up understanding not only what he did but who he was. Now, in the final book Theodore is off on a safari to Eastern Africa. I will be accompanying him and his son Kermit. What a guy! I don’t want to leave him.
I think this book isn’t quite as good as the first. I wanted to know more about his familial relationships, about his wife and children. There is a bit, but not enough. Maybe that is not the author’s fault. There is little information. Edith was reserved. Letters were destroyed. Privacy was kept. Or maybe I will get this in the next volume? I know that the narration by Nathan Marosz really made it difficult at times to pay attention to the words being read. His voice has a terrible sing-song lilt. He drew out in length the final words of a sentence. Then he pauses; it sounds terribly condescending! In any case the narration is completely inappropriate for Theodore who is known to have bitten off his words, spitting them out in a sharp staccato manner. Marosz mispronounces not only French, but German and even English words too. As you follow the amusing lines of the author, you can hardly appreciate the humor, the narration is so distracting. OK, Marosz did have me laughing, not at the author’s lines, but at the bizarre mispronunciations. Wait till you hear how he says the words liqueur, and Steiff (the stuffed teddy bears) and Slav. There was one French name that I was totally incapable of deciphering. Thankfully, both the first and the third books of the trilogy use the narrator Mark Deakins, and he does a magnificent job. Many times lines were read twice, but this, of course, is not the narrator’s fault. I kind of think it was the narration that made it so impossible for me to really enjoy this book as I should have, but at times I did feel just a little bit bored. My advice? If you cannot get the second volume narrated by Mark Deakins, read the paper book instead! You simply cannot hop over any of the books. They should be read together.
I learned a lot about the Roosevelt presidency from this book. I had no idea how close the US came to war, first with Germany and England and later with Japan. I also didn't realize that Roosevelt had tried to move towards civil rights, but faced such stiff opposition that he almost provoked another civil war. I did realize that he was the founder of the conservation movement in government and that he was a social reformer, but it was great to read the details.
My biggest complaint is that while I felt like I got a really good picture of Roosevelt, some of the other players remained a little shadowy. He just sort of dropped these Cabinet members in and didn't give much background of who they were, what they did before serving with the president, and how everyone fit in together. I got a lot of names, all right, but it was hard to keep them all straight. I also think there should have been more in there about McKinley's death and his assassin.
But overall, it is worth reading and I recommend it, especially if you are interested in US history. The author felt that Roosevelt was the most important president since Lincoln, and when I look at all his accomplishments, I might just have to agree. 4 stars.
If you like well written autobiography, or early 20th century American history, you should thoroughly enjoy this book.
This book is a good read for those who would like more background on TR. I was impressed with the research that went into the book but some parts fell flat with added bits of information with no follow up about the story later in the book (i.e. TR's daughter was discussed many times and there was no follow up on her later in the book.)
Overall a good read and kept me intrigued throughout the entire book!
I found it to be less interesting than the first book (The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt). Teddy Roosevelt was a singular man and while the first book was all about exposing his personality and fascinating early life, the second book almost entirely focuses on the politics of his Presidency.
It's still a fascinating, must-read, account, but what makes Theodore Roosevelt really interesting is his personality and most of that we see in the first book.
Is he cherry-picking quotes to make Roosevelt seem more "Progressive" than he really was? Or is that the genuine TR philosophy?
The first section of the book, detailed the first three and a half years of Roosevelt's presidency and is the strong section of the book. Morris not only relates Roosevelt's innate political skill in dealing with older and more conservative members of the GOP in Congress he had to interact with, but also his belief that as President he needed to do things none of his predecessors had done including cultivating a relationship with the press on an unprecedented scale. Morris' goes into great detail about both domestic and foreign topics that Roosevelt dealt with, in particular battling trusts and Panama. Throughout this period, Roosevelt also outmaneuvered any possible rival for the Republican nomination in 1904 then got elected in dominating fashion.
After the election of 1904, the book's second section begins and there seems to be a shift that becomes noticeable as one reads. While the first section of the book is full of action, the second is sedate by comparison. As Morris explains in the book, because of the way Congress met basically all of 1905 was void of the anything meaningful happening on the domestic front while Roosevelt was active in foreign affairs. But even though this in mind, the fact that not until late 1907 or early 1908 does there seem to be as much activity as what happens in the first section. A important reason is that Morris' touches upon Roosevelt most enduring legacy, his conservationism in establish national parks and monuments for future generations.
By the end of the book, Morris has imparted that the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt has transformative not only for the office but Constitutionally as well to the consternation of long-time legislators who believed Congress should have more power than the President. However Morris never outright states this, instead he gives all the evidence of this throughout the book giving the reader a clear picture of this transformative period in American history. If you are interested in Theodore Roosevelt, early Twentieth Century politics, or American history in general I wholeheartedly recommend this book.
With "Theodore Rex," though, we see a man who is thrust into the Presidency without the opportunity to prepare mentally, as others had through the fire and course of a national campaign.
And yet, after a first term as Governor of New York, it became apparent that those who controlled New York's political machine would not allow Roosevelt another reform minded term. His name bandied around as a candidate for Vice President, Roosevelt was flattered, but convinced that he would be useless, bored, and stagnate. To Roosevelt, a man who above all was in perpetual motion, becoming Vice-President would doom him to irrellivence and uselessness. Unlike today, when Dick Cheney and Joe Biden have exercised greater responsibility and power than any Vice President in memory, the Office of the Vice President at the turn of the 19th century wasn't "worth a bucket of spit," at least to Roosevelt. It took wounded pride to change his mind--hearing that Senator Mark Hanna and President William McKinley did not want him on the ticket, he let supporters know he that he would serve if the Convention selected him.
Little did he know how short his term as Vice President would be. In the ides of September, President McKinley was shot by an assassin and Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th President of the United States.
That's almost before the book even gets started.
Morris' writing is, as in the first book in the series, novel-like. Theodore strides through his world like a giant, negotiating peace between the Japanese and Russians, supporting the secession of Panama in order to obtain a shorter path for the Panama, building and sending the Great White Fleet, ending a miners strike involving a quarter of a million workers, appointing three Supreme Court Justices, including the great dissenter, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and hosting Booker T. Washington, the first time a black had been invited to dinner with a President at the White House.. Perhaps the only difference between this and the first book is that in feeling. Where the first tells was the life of an ambitious adventurer, "Theodore Rex" is the story of a man under constant scrutiny, on whom the stakes are significantly increased. At times I couldn't help but wonder if it was also the change in the type of documents that Morris is able to rely upon, utilizing more official and government documents than in "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt."
Ultimately, "Theodore Rex" is a fascinating look at one of America's most ambitious, most popular, and most effective Presidents. Coming to power at at time when American power and wealth was growing and as yet unfathomed, Roosevelt took every advantage given to him to expand American power and influence. Morris' "Theodore Rex" is entertaining, education, and compelling, especially for a Presidential biography.
This is helped by his decision to follow many different threads chronologically. Rather than have a section on the Panama Canal, another on financial policy, another on foreign policy, etc., all these are interleaved, along with many others. This gives an idea of what it was like for those living with Roosevelt, to have all kinds of different things going on around them all the time. It also helps to bring depth to Roosevelt's character, because he dealt with all this and much more, usually deftly.
Two things struck me. First, the racial politics. I was amazed at how often this was a real issue. Partly, this was because the Republican party of Roosevelt's time was dependent on black votes, and yet white Southerners were an powerful block in Congress. It was really surprising to me how often these two political realities came into conflict.
Second, there is an incident where the US almost went to war with Imperial Germany, and only Roosevelt's tact and quick thinking averted this. Historians have flatly said that he lied about this, until very recently, when previously classified and secret documents from multiple sources have come to light. I have another Roosevelt book in my queue, The River of Doubt. The cover copy mentions that many contemporaries flatly refused to believe his adventure and said that he lied, until recent studies have verified his account. It's amazing to me that, given Roosevelt's history and character, so many people have been so willing to dismiss his statements. How many other presidents have been so insulted, and then vindicated?
Morris's portrayal is fair. He shows the brilliance and the belligerence of Roosevelt. As an author doing research, I found the book to be fantastic. I took many, many notes.
I am excited to read the third and final book about TR in this series. He has easily become one of my favorite historical people, and I would recommend this book to any lover of history or anyone who wants to read a really great narrative.
Having not yet read either of Morris's other Theodore Roosevelt biographies, I cannot judge how this volume fits into the series, but it is more than capable of standing on its own. Morris's research is exhaustive, with 169 pages of notes following his narrative for those interested in following his research. Though a later biography of Roosevelt's presidency may appear, this will remain a monumental work and a go-to volume for historians of T.R.'s time in the highest elected office in the United States.