Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Well I seem to be on a Presidential kick lately. The latest book I have read is the new biography of Theodore Roosevelt titled, "Lion in the White House" by Aida Donald. Those who know little about the 26th President of the United States will be surprised by his life pre-Presidency. Much has been said in history textbooks about his terms in office and subsequent attempts to return as a Bull Moose Progressive candidate, but little is mentioned of his impressive rise to power.

Donald focuses mainly on T.R.'s political life which began in New York, where he would eventually become Governor. He also served as Police Commissioner and Assistant Secretary to the Navy. Hoping to quell his chance at real power, Republicans chose him as the Vice President for McKinley in 1901. However, McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt found himself at the greatest position of power. Aida describes President Roosevelt as a progressive work horse who busted trusts and built up the military, showing that he seemed to have some foresight about the coming World War.

Most interesting is Roosevelt's personal life, full of tragedy-- his first wife and his mother died on the same day. He also ventured out West where he had a ranch in North Dakota and rounded up some of his friends from there to form the famous Rough Riders. Roosevelt was also an accomplished naturalist and author.

The biography is brief but provides a good overview of Roosevelt's life and legacy. Donald presents T.R. as a passionate progessive, always fighting for change and working to improve the lives of the working class. His record in busting trusts and improving work conditions support this view. She seems to have chosen to just touch on his conservation reforms in an effort to showcase his many other great accomplishments. Donald believes that T.R.'s break with the Republican Party does not diminish his importance to the party or his place in their history.

For those more interested in his personal life, I would recommend The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by a detailed 700+ page account of his life pre-Presidency and it's sequel, Theodore Rex, another 700 page epic of the rest of his life, both by Edmund Morris.