Abstract

Today, opponents of every president complain that the object of their criticism has prevailed in the public mind through his devious manipulation of the news media-his use (or abuse) of public relations and hype, press management and rhetoric. Hackneyed as this allegation is today, in Theodore Roosevelt's day it was relatively novel. For not until TR entered the White House did American presidents fully exploit the media; not until his presidency did they fully conceive of their work as promoting an agenda on behalf of the democratic masses. To be sure, all democratic leaders are ultimately answerable to the people; and it is also true that presidents since Washington have carefully superintended their images. But by and large 19th-century presidents didn't actively try to steer the nation along their preferred policy course. That daunting task-which Roosevelt not only embraced but made a condition of presidential success-required using modern tools and techniques of public persuasion that were newly available to TR: generating stories for the mass-circulation newspapers; touring the country to speak on behalf of a policy agenda; hiring dedicated officials to help shape the public discourse on key issues. In these ways Roosevelt turned the presidency into a public platform-and with it, an activist office-as no one had before.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 1057-1088
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-30
Open Access
No
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