Presidential Leadership: Rating the Best and the Worst in the White House, Edited by James Taranto and Leonard Leo

Cover ImageFinished 4-10-09. rating 3/5, political/history, pub. 2004

I was never one that really enjoyed reading about history, but after 9-11 I did become more interested in the government and politics.  I picked up this book at a used book sale last year because I thought I would like the short articles on each President and  love the lists and rankings.   

Best ranked Presidents according to this survey- 1. George Washington  2. Abraham Lincoln  3. Franklin Roosevelt  4. Thomas Jefferson  5. Theodore Roosevelt

There is an essay on each President, some written by such notables as John McCain (Teddy Roosevelt), Christopher  Buckley (James Buchanan), and Lynne Cheney (James Madison).  I thought the essays were interesting and informative.  I found the book extremely readable.

The two editors for this book are James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal and Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society.  I say this so that you understand the editors and the conductors of the survey are from a strictly conservative viewpoint.  This was not as much of an issue the first half of the book as the Presidents had all been dead a number of years.  Once in the 20th century the reviews of each President became decidedly pointed.  Many could not resist unflattering comments about Bill Clinton even while writing about another President.  It was distracting and diminished my belief that the writers could put petty party politics aside and write without bitterness.  And many spent a paragraph or more editorializing about their own views.  Not everyone did this, but enough to notice and irritate me.

Which leads to my next big problem with the  book.  There was absolutely no consistancy in these write ups.  Some wrote in great detail about how a President died in office and another wouldn’t even mention the assassination at all.  And Peggy Noonan’s piece on John F Kennedy was just strange and did not fit in with book at all.

I found some of the articles a bit more political than I was hoping for, but that being said I did learn a lot about each President.  My quiz tomorrow will include some of the fun facts from the book.