Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America

Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America

by Jared Cohen


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The strength and prestige of the American presidency has waxed and waned since George Washington. Accidental Presidents looks at eight men who came to the office without being elected to it. It demonstrates how the character of the man in that powerful seat affects the nation and world.

Eight men have succeeded to the presidency when the incumbent died in office. In one way or another they vastly changed our history. Only Theodore Roosevelt would have been elected in his own right. Only TR, Truman, Coolidge, and LBJ were re-elected.

John Tyler succeeded William Henry Harrison who died 30 days into his term. He was kicked out of his party and became the first president threatened with impeachment. Millard Fillmore succeeded esteemed General Zachary Taylor. He immediately sacked the entire cabinet and delayed an inevitable Civil War by standing with Henry Clay’s compromise of 1850. Andrew Johnson, who succeeded our greatest president, sided with remnants of the Confederacy in Reconstruction. Chester Arthur, the embodiment of the spoils system, was so reviled as James Garfield’s successor that he had to defend himself against plotting Garfield’s assassination; but he reformed the civil service. Theodore Roosevelt broke up the trusts. Calvin Coolidge silently cooled down the Harding scandals and preserved the White House for the Republican Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression. Truman surprised everybody when he succeeded the great FDR and proved an able and accomplished president. Lyndon B. Johnson was named to deliver Texas electorally. He led the nation forward on Civil Rights but failed on Vietnam.

Accidental Presidents adds immeasurably to our understanding of the power and limits of the American presidency in critical times.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501109829
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 04/09/2019
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 188,375
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Jared Cohen is the founder and CEO of Jigsaw at Alphabet Inc. He also serves as an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Previously, he ran Google Ideas at Google Inc. and served as chief advisor to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. From 2006 to 2010 he served as a member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff and as a close advisor to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Accidental Presidents, The New Digital Age, Children of Jihad, and One Hundred Days of Silence: America and the Rwanda Genocide. He lives in New York with his wife and two daughters.

Table of Contents

Foreword xi

Chapter 1 First to Die 1

Chapter 2 Over My Dead Body 47

Chapter 3 Lincoln's Choice 85

Chapter 4 Prince Arthur 137

Chapter 5 A Most Ambitious Man 185

Chapter 6 Averting Scandal 223

Chapter 7 "That Damn Mule!" 263

Chapter 8 "Give 'em Hell Harry!" 295

Chapter 9 The Last Time 327

Chapter 10 Close Calls 355

Afterword 377

Author's Note 381

Acknowledgments 383

A Note on Sources 387

Notes 389

Bibliography 471

Index 489

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