Roosevelt used to explain his policies, his tactics, and strategy. Bishop absorbed all of this to write his editorials, but in addition, he began to offer Roosevelt strategic advice. The barrier between journalists and politicians that we have today didn’t exist in those days—it was fairly common that newspaper owners and publishers and editors would form political alliances with people they liked.
They worked together to fight politicians that they felt were corrupt. But they didn’t always agree. Historically, one of the criticisms of Bishop is that he was a sycophant, that he was a suck-up to Roosevelt. But as you read through these writings and understand the relationship better, you find there were times when they dueled in letters, back and forth.
Prior to Roosevelt getting to the White House, reporters were kept outside the gates. They were not allowed in—they were handed press releases by the administration. Roosevelt opened the gates and brought the journalists inside, and for the first time gave them their own space in the White House to cover its goings on. The press fell in love with Roosevelt. He was an enormously quotable guy—he just walked in and dominated the room. I use a phrase in the book: “an action figure in spectacles.”
After 1914, the two men had a discussion at one point of what to call each other. Prior to this, Roosevelt had always addressed him in his letters as “my dear Bishop.” Roosevelt began to use the title Colonel Roosevelt from his days in the cavalry during the Spanish-American War—in those days, an ex-president didn’t carry the title of Mr. President. So Bishop’s next string of letters says, “Dear Colonel.” Within a year or two, Theodore writes to him and says, “Please call me Theodore.” The letters began to appear with “My dear Theodore” and “My dear Joe.” These two old crusaders had now evolved into friends.
The Vineyard Sound House doesn’t exist anymore, but it was in Falmouth Heights. And that was where Bishop vacationed virtually every summer of his career when he was in New York. He would religiously take the month of July off—not even Theodore Roosevelt would get in his way during the month of July—and he and his wife would take the train from New York down to Falmouth and spend a month in the Vineyard Sound House. Bishop was a Massachusetts boy, so this was sort of coming home for him. When you live and work in the bustle of New York City, even 100 years ago the thought of escaping to Cape Cod for the summer was very alluring.
People like T.R. come along once in a century. A brilliant, well-read, politically adept man, who would take no prisoners and was incredibly principled, both in his professional and personal life—the sort of combination that, even today, I think we are all searching for in a president.