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Rating the Presidents: A Ranking of U.S. Leaders, from the Great and Honorable to the Dishonest and Incompetent Hardcover – January, 1997

4 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Though "best of" lists can be informative and entertaining, ranking the American presidents may seem an arbitrary and ultimately flawed historical exercise. How does, after all, one compare the disparate time periods and political climates of, say, George Washington and George Bush? Taking such arguments into account, William J. Ridings Jr. and Stuart B. McIver have gathered the opinions of experts on the subject to compile a list of the best and worst presidents. These rankings are based on five criteria: leadership qualities, accomplishments and crisis management, political skill, appointments, and character and integrity. The authors polled more than 700 historians and political scientists to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the 41 executives, declaring Abraham Lincoln the best and Warren G. Harding the worst. The five categories allow each man to be viewed on several different levels, and often these individual assessments are the most interesting. For instance, John F. Kennedy ranks eighth in leadership qualities, but thrity-fourth in character and integrity; John Adams ranks third in character and integrity, but twenty-first in political skill. As the poll reflects, possessing skills and positive attributes in one area does not necessarily guarantee success in the White House; many qualities are necessary to be a great president. Of course, countless external factors influence a presidency as well, and the authors supply a detailed overview of each administration to provide the proper historical perspective and lend credence to the rankings. A useful reference guide and history primer, Rating the Presidents is a valuable companion for history buffs.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Citadel; 1st edition (January 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806517999
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806517995
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,269,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A Customer on November 15, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The chart that begins the book is the only worthwhile reading in this book. It ranks all the Presidents by five categories, and lists them by their overall rating. Number One is Lincoln, and dead last is that ode to mediocrity, Warren Harding. From this page you can learn that according to the 700 "experts" listed in the appendix, Bill Clinton Ranks 38th out of 41 in "character and integrity," while Calvin Coolidge ranks 21st. Will Taft ranks 30th in "political skill," and so on.
This is interesting, if flawed, subjective, and everything else you might say about such a list. Unfortunately, the editors had another 300 pages to fill, and didn't take advantage of the opportunity. The rest of the book is a series of short biographical essays on each of the Presidents. And although the book might qualify as a Handy Reference, it's still pretty lame. Most of the essays are badly written, and they include all the hackneyed phrases and events that surround each President.
The writers tried to weave the Presidential ratings and comments from the "experts" into each essay, but they did a lousy job. Instead of providing fresh analysis, they tacked on some information about the poll into a standard, clichéd biography on each President. Any history undergraduate could have written these essays, with a single biography of each President as their only guide. That's probably what these guys did.
In the final analysis, the chart does not justify the existence of this book. The authors should have simply published the results of their survey in a magazine.
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VERY SATISFIED
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Light and informative. A very pleasant read on a long trip.
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