The Presidents: Noted Historians Rank America's Best--and Worst--Chief Executives

The Presidents: Noted Historians Rank America's Best--and Worst--Chief Executives


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The complete rankings of our best — and worst — presidents, based on C-SPAN's much-cited Historians Surveys of Presidential Leadership.

Over a period of decades, C-SPAN has surveyed leading historians on the best and worst of America's presidents across a variety of categories — their ability to persuade the public, their leadership skills, the moral authority, and more. The crucible of the presidency has forged some of the very best and very worst leaders in our national history, along with much in between.

Based on interviews conducted over the years with a variety of presidential biographers, this book provides not just a complete ranking of our presidents, but stories and analyses that capture the character of the men who held the office. From Abraham Lincoln's political savvy and rhetorical gifts to James Buchanan's indecisiveness, this book teaches much about what makes a great leader—and what does not.

As America looks ahead to our next election, this book offers perspective and criteria that may help us choose our next leader wisely.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781541774339
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication date: 04/23/2019
Pages: 560
Sales rank: 35,712
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 2.00(d)

About the Author

Brian Lamb is C-SPAN's founding CEO and chairman and longtime on-camera interviewer.

Susan Swain is C-SPAN's co-CEO and, in addition to her senior management role at the network, has been an on-camera host for C-SPAN for more than thirty years, interviewing public officials, historians, and journalists for the public affairs network. This is her ninth book project with C-SPAN and PublicAffairs. She lives in the Washington, DC, suburbs.

Table of Contents

A Note to Readers on Style xiii

Our Special Contributors xv

Introduction Susan Swain xvii

The Magnificent Lion Richard Norton Smith 1

A Brief History of Presidential Rankings Douglas Brinkley 10

The Top Ten

1 Abraham Lincoln Harold Holzer 21

2 George Washington Ron Chernow 34

3 FrankHn D. Roosevelt Doris Kearns Goodwin 47

4 Theodore Roosevelt Douglas Brinkley 59

5 Dwight D. Eisenhower William I. Hitchcock 70

6 Harry S. Truman Aida D. Donald 81

7 Thomas Jefferson Willard Sterne Randall 93

8 John F. Kennedy Robert Dallek 105

9 Ronald Reagan Lou Cannon 114

10 Lyndon B. Johnson Robert A. Caro 126

…The Men in the Middle

11 Woodrow Wilson A. Scott Berg 139

12 Barack Obama David J. Garrow 150

13 James Monroe John Ferling 162

14 James K. Polk John Seigenthaler 171

15 William J. Clinton David Maraniss 181

16 William McKinley Robert W. Merry 192

17 James Madison Noah Feldman 203

18 Andrew Jackson Mark R. Cheathem 215

19 John Adams Gordon S. Wood 226

20 George H.W. Bush Jeffrey A. Engel 235

21 John Quincy Adams James Traub 247

22 Ulysses S. Grant Ronald C. White 259

23 Grover Cleveland H. Paul Jeffers 269

24 William Howard Taft Jeffrey Rosen 280

25 Gerald R. Ford James Cannon 291

26 Jimmy Carter Michael J. Gerhardt 302

27 Calvin Coolidge Amity Shlaes 311

28 Richard M. Nixon Evan Thomas 322

29 James A. Garfield Kenneth D. Ackerman 333

30 Benjamin Harrison Charles W. Calhoun 344

31 Zachary Taylor Elbert B. Smith 355

32 Rutherford B. Hayes Art Hoogenboom 364

33 George W. Bush James Mann 374

…And All the Rest

34 Martin Van Buren Michael Douglas Henderson 389

35 Chester A. Arthur Scott S. Greenberger 399

36 Herbert Hoover Richard Norton Smith 407

37 Millard Fillmore Edna Greene Medford 419

38 William Henry Harrison Ronald G. Shafer 426

39 John Tyler Edward P. Crapol 436

40 Warren G. Harding John W. Dean 443

41 Franklin Pierce Peter A. Wallner 454

42 Andrew Johnson David O. Stewart 464

43 James Buchanan Robert Strauss 475

Historians' Perspectives on President Donald J. Trump Douglas Brinkley Edna Greene Medford Richard Norton Smith 485

Postscript: The Presidency, National identity, and the Pursuit of Equal Justice Edna Greene Medford 497

Appendix I Historians' Survey on Presidential Leadership, Total Scores and Overall Rankings 503

Appendix II US Presidents in Chronological Order 505

Complete List of Featured Books 507

Acknowledgments 511

Index 513

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The Presidents: Noted Historians Rank America's Best--and Worst--Chief Executives 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
oldwarden 9 months ago
An interesting review of all 44 of the American Presidents, ranking them in order of first to last (Trump has not been in office long enough to be given a rating). Each president is given a chapter, and the information compiled by C-SPAN. The ratings were given by a team of 91 presidential historians. The ratings were based on a set of ten qualities of presidential leadership. They were: public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with Congress, vision/setting an agenda, pursued equal justice for all, and performance within the context of the times. I was not surprised by the "top ten" presidents. I mean, how can you go wrong in selecting giants such as Lincoln, Washington, or the Roosevelts? Nor was I shocked to see the bottom of the barrel, including James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, or Millard Fillmore. What was interesting were those presidents in the middle, and why they were ranked there. Each chapter has great tidbits about the presidents, items on their early years, their beliefs, their quirks, and the people they selected to help them run the country. I believe that this book would be a great one for anybody interested in our history. Rather than read 44 books on each one of the presidents, one could read this and get a good background on each one. I especially could see this book being used in a upper year high school civics class, or an introductory college level class. The high school teacher could assign a chapter to each student, and have them give a report to the rest of the class. So much better than they could get from Wikipedia! I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and will be referring to it in the future.