CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE
Heir Apparenting
1907

Theodore Roosevelt was not a good judge of character. He had guessed wrong about Tom Reed, thinking that they shared far more in the way of politics than they did. He underestimated McKinley, not realizing how that apparently unassertive individual generally got what he wanted, including Roosevelt for vice president. He allowed his friendship for the Storers to blind him to the damage Maria's maneuverings were doing to his administration and the interests of the country.

But he never made such a mistake as with Will Taft--a fatal error of judgment that would blight both of their lives and alter the course of American politics. Taft was an easy man to misjudge. He was smart, but like many fat men--he weighed well over three hundred pounds, at six foot two--he often gave the impression of laziness. His father had constantly chided him to get moving, recalling that one of his teachers "hit your case when he said that you had the best head of any of my boys and if you was not too lazy you would have great success." Taft's amiable disposition fit the fat-man stereotype, allowing him to laugh off jokes made at his expense. (As governor-general of the Philippines, he wrote Elihu Root that he had just taken a long horseback ride about his domain and felt fine afterward. "How is the horse?" came Root's reply.) His face was positively cherubic in childhood; even as an adult, when a walrus mustache hid half of it, his smile was like "a huge pan of sweet milk poured over one."

Taft hadn't intended to go into politics. Law was his field. From Yale Law School he returned to his home state of Ohio, where in due

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