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Leaders We Deserved (and a Few We Didn't)
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Leaders We Deserved (and a Few We Didn't)

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  30 ratings  ·  13 reviews
It’s a perennial pastime to rate U.S. presidents on an all-time ranking: Certain presidents were Great,” others were Near-Great,” and so on down to Failures” and Unmitigated Disasters.” (OK, we made that last category up.) But as Alvin Felzenberg points out, there are many flaws with these rating systems. Despite reams of new historical information, the rankings never seem
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published June 10th 2008 by Basic Books (first published June 9th 2008)
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This should be required reading in every classroom in America. It's non-partisan -- Reagan and FDR are near the top with the usual suspects like Lincoln and Washington. And Nixon and Buchanan (and Carter) are near the bottom. So this guy isn't one of the Nixon-hung-the-moon, FDR-gave-away-Europe wackos on the right or a Reagan-was-the-worst-ever wacko on the left. He grades most presidents (not the current one who's still in office, or the two -- Garfield and the first Harrison -- who only had a ...more
Urey Patrick
There is a periodic and popular ranking of US Presidents that gets updated and publicized every now and then. It really is nothing more than a subjective popularity contest rather than a serious assessments in that there are no a-priori criteria used to assess the Presidents - instead, those historians invited to participate are asked to rank Presidents by whatever criteria they devise, and no explanation of rankings is made. It is a popularity poll with no attempt at objective or qualitative an ...more
As an alternative to Schlesinger's survey of historians rating US Presidents, Alvin Felzenberg proposes rating them by 6 standards: Character, Vision, Competence, Economic Policy, Preserving & Extending Liberty, and Defense, National Security & Foreign Policy. Each of his chapters he tells the story of some key presidential successes and failures on each of these points then gives them a score 1 through 5. He then averages up the score and ranks them. Since I've been reading presidential ...more
Across the past years even decades I have found myself held hostage and even in virtual durance vile by the Presidential Ranking Surveys conducted by Arthur Schlesinger Sr. and then Arthur Schlesinger Jr. The Schlesinger's set out 6 categories for ratings: great, near great, high average, low average, below average and failure with no criteria provided for the selection process in any category. Felzenberg, however, invigorates the process with 6 enlightened categories of his own: character, visi ...more
Very interesting -- I learned a lot about the presidents I knew nothing about and more about the presidents I thought I knew well.

Felzenberg evaluated our former leaders in 6 different categories: character; vision; competence; economic policy (timely for today's standards); preserving & extending liberty; and defense, national security & foreign policy. We had one president who scored fives (highest score) across the board, but you'll have to read the book to find out who scored best a
This is I am sure a controversial book in some quarters. The author starts by demonstrating the limitations of the usual method of historical rating of presidents by historians and the obvious bias (usually liberal) that goes in to that process. While no system can be completely divorced of bias, the author attempts to bring some structure to the process. He rates the presidents in six specific categories: character; vision; competence; economic policy; preserving and extending liberty; nation d ...more
Sep 14, 2008 Diane rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History buffs
The author rates the Presidents in 6 different categories: Character, Vision, Competence, Promoting the US economy, Foreign Policy and National Security, and Promoting Civil Liberties. I thought the book interesting but but couldn't agree with Reagan being put in the top category, rating the same as Teddy Roosevelt. Eisenhower wss rated 5th. The author says opinions of Presidents change the further from their presidencies, and I agree with him on Eisenhower being a much better president than he ...more
I've always been a fanatic about Presidential rankings. However, very seldom have the ratings come with criteria used in the rankings. Felzenberger developed clear and concise categories. They are rated on character, vision, competence, economic policy, preserving and extending liberty, and defense , national security and foreign policy. It is a fascinating read and helped me change a view point on quite a few of the presidents. We disagree on some such as FDR, however, Fezenberg presents a comp ...more
Jul 31, 2008 Mark marked it as to-read
According to a Wall Street Journal review, once the book gets past the obligatory listing of Lincoln and Washington at the top of the heap, it uses a 30-point rating scale for U.S. presidents that comes up with a few surprises, including FDR slipping to sixth, and the trashing of some historians' favorites (such as Wilson) and the elevation of some of their goats (namely Ulysses Grant). Sounds interesting
"Rating" the presidents in various areas, with mini-bios of most of the more influential (good and bad) presidents. Definitely had a bit of a "Republican" slant (and oh how the author love love LOVES Reagan) but I did enjoy it and learned a lot. You'd have to a pretty big history nerd to get into it (luckily, I am...)
If you are well read regarding our presidents there is not a whole lot new here. However that really does not take away from the fun and enjoyment I had reading this fast moving book which takes a look at some of the high and low points of many of our past presidents.
Dennis Goshorn
What a terrific book! The author makes a fair assessment of our presidents and there are some surprises in his rankings! Lead me to read a book on Warren G. Harding.
This book made presidential history come alive for me. I can't wait to read more about some of the great and disastrous men that have led this country.
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