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Other titles in the Wall Street Journal Book series:
Presidential Leadership: Rating the Best and the Worst in the White House (Wall Street Journal Book)by James Taranto
Synopses & Reviews
What makes a president great? Two of America's most prominent institutions, The Wall Street Journal and the Federalist Society, with the help of a wide array of eminent scholars, journalists, and political leaders, tackle this question in Presidential Leadership, the definitive ranking of our nation's chief executives.
Based on a survey conducted by the Federalist Society and the Journal, Presidential Leadership examines presidential performance in this collection of provocative, enlightening essays written by a distinguished and diverse group of authors.
The survey included seventy-eight liberal and conservative scholars, balancing the sample to reflect the political makeup of the U.S. population as a whole. It represents the first national survey in book form that provides a complete ranking of the presidents, along with an appendix that explains the methodology in detail and includes a wide range of valuable data. The result is an important, fresh, and engaging book, rating the presidents from Washington to Clinton and including an early assessment of George W. Bush's presidency by Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot. Nearly fifty contributors provide their insights, with one essay on each president or on a broader issue of presidential leadership. Among them:
Forrest McDonald on Thomas Jefferson
Their compelling essays, packed with fascinating and often surprising insights, analyze the best and worst of our commanders in chief. Presidential Leadership is the lively result, at once a valuable reference and a tremendously readable collection.
"Perennial favorite George Washington holds onto the top slot in this latest incarnation of presidential greatness surveys. Wall Street Journal Web editor Taranto and Federalist Society executive vice president Leo polled experts in history, politics and law on both sides of the volatile liberal-conservative divide. This politically attuned selection process produces no real surprises, however. Abraham Lincoln and FDR join the 'Father of His Country' in the exclusive pantheon of outstanding leaders. Longtime failures James Buchanan and Warren Harding anchor the bottom rungs. Ronald Reagan merits 'near great' status here, compared to 'average' rankings elsewhere. However, Democratic icons provoke gratuitous partisan sniping from some of the well-known conservative contributors, especially on the contentious issue of character, tilting the editors' much-vaunted objectivity rightward as a result. Peggy Noonan lingers on JFK's peccadilloes, including his use of sunless tanning products, rather than on his skillful management of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Robert Bork highlights FDR's domestic and international miscues, leaving readers to wonder how the only four-term president ever made the top three. Although George W. Bush is not ranked, he garners a glowing profile that's twice as long as FDR's. Fortunately, back-to-back essays on Lincoln by Jay Winik and Andrew Johnson by Jeffrey Tulis stand out and provide perceptive, timely appraisals of contrasting styles of executive stewardship during national crises. Complemented by William Bennett's cri de coeur against declining standards in the teaching of American history, by scholarly musings on economic policy, wartime leadership, judicial appointments and disputed elections, and by a fine concluding overview of the editors' methodology, these subtly shifting critiques of American presidents will give political junkies plenty to tussle over." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Combining statistical information with an all-star team of scholars, this lively, provocative, solidly based work serves as both a valuable reference and a tremendously readable collection.
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