Fit for the Presidency? Winners Losers, What-If's, and Also-Rans
By Seymour Morris
The premise of this book is quite interesting: What might we learn by examining, exclusively, the resumes and references of various candidates for the presidency? Forget the crazy media train, here we're just looking at qualifications and how their peers felt about them. Each chapter lays out the candidates essentials, their resume, an overview of how they are viewed by the media and their contemporaries, and a conclusion relating what actually ended up happening to them. Some became President, some weren't even nominated, and some are just a footnote as an "also ran".
Morris takes a look at both winners and losers of the Presidency in an effort to be as well-rounded as possible. He covers the usual suspects of Washington and Lincoln, though I wouldn't say there are any new revelations there. William Henry Harrison was thrown in as well, and I always enjoy reading about Old Tippecanoe. Morris even delves into Jefferson Davis, the first (and only) President of the Confederacy, as well as General Marshall who was never even chosen for a ticket but was highly considered. I loved that Morris went off the beaten path in order to discuss candidates you might know nothing about. The chapter on DeWitt Clinton had me looking for his biography when I realized I didn't know anything about this amazing man.
The only issue I had with this book was formatting. Reading the resumes backwards was confusing. I understand it since this is the standard format of real-world resumes, but here it was just confusing to keep up with each mans accomplishments since you were reading them in descending order. Also, as a personal aside, I wish Morris had covered President Buchanan since he was arguably the most well qualified person to ever run and win the presidency, which made it even more sad that he wasn't up to the job itself.
While I don't think I learned much about the candidates who became Presidents, I certainly discovered more about those who didn't. I love discovering things I never knew about, and this book as definitely made me look up books on other related people and topics. On the whole, I don't know that I am walking away knowing who was more qualified then anyone else, but I am thinking more about how important the "also-rans" are to history and that they have a story outside their candidacy.
Copy courtesy of University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.