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The Leaders We Deserved (and a Few We Didn't): Rethinking the Presidential Rating Game

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Rating the presidents remains a perennial pastime of historians, pundits, and presidency buffs. Most surveys place presidents into categories such as "Great," "Near-Great," and "Failure." Their originators seldom, however, inform readers what lay behind those designations. In The Leaders We Deserved (and a Few We Didn't), Alvin S. Felzenberg assigns the presidents separate grades in each of six categories (character, vision, competence, among others). He offers a fresh look at "old favorites" and rescues others from obscurity and ridicule. Most importantly, he supplies evidence in support of his conclusions.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Felzenberg (political science, Univ. of Pennsylvania; Governor Tom Kean) attacks the historians' rankings of U.S. Presidents conducted by Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. (1948, 1962) and by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (1996). The author argues that these rankings used no precise criteria, were never entirely explained, and relied on experts who tended to be politically liberal. Felzenberg's approach is sound. He attempts to rectify the situation by newly systematizing such rankings into six different categories, e.g., character, vision, competence, economic soundness, the protection and expansion of liberties, and handling of defense and foreign policy. These categories and his in-depth discussions of their meaning, together with his selected top-, middle-, and bottom-ranked Presidents for each category, are the book's strength. Unfortunately, Craig's execution is flawed; like his predecessors, he gives no explanation of how he used these categories to obtain his own rankings of selected Presidents, and some Presidents are neither ranked nor discussed. But his criteria remain sound and carefully considered, and their consistent application would add depth to the ever-popular practice of ranking our Presidents. For public and academic libraries.
—Bryan Craig

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465018901
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 6/1/2010
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 579,397
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Alvin Stephen Felzenberg is a Visiting Professor of Politics at Princeton University, and has held appointments including the principal spokesman for the 9/11 Commission and staff positions in the U.S. House of Representatives. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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Table of Contents

Preface vii

1 The Rating Game 1

2 Character 11

3 Vision 79

4 Competence 109

5 Economic Policy 171

6 Preserving and Extending Liberty 255

7 Defense, National Security, and Foreign Policy 331

8 What Does It All Mean? 365

The Presidential Scorecard 378

Afterword-George W. Bush: An Early Assessment 379

Acknowledgments 421

Economic Data Sources 423

Notes 427

Index 467

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