From heroic George Washington to the dastardly Richard Nixon, the oval office has been occupied by larger-than-life personalities since 1789. The position comes with enormous power and responsibility, and every American president thus far has managed to achieve great things. However, each president of the United States is only human—and oftentimes far from perfect. While some men suffered through only minor mishaps during their time in office, others are famously remembered for leaving behind bigger messes.
Take a trip through the history of the presidents and discover each man’s contribution. Historical artwork, photographs, and black and white illustrations appear every 1 to 3 pages. Many of the illustrations are comical caricatures of presidents. The short chapters, large text, and illustrations make the book accessible to readers. The book incorporates some definitions into the text. For example, some politicians start “attacking their opponents—explaining why people shouldn’t vote for the other guy, instead of why people should vote for them. This is called mudslinging.” Even though some of the vocabulary is explained, readers may still struggle with the difficult vocabulary.
Not-So-Great Presidents: Commanders In Chief uses a conversational tone that makes learning about history fun. The book uses many references to popular culture such as the Marvel Universe. For example, President Franklin Pierce “also has one of the most tragic backstories since the Punisher first showed up in Marvel comics.” While the vast amount of historical facts will not be retained, Not-So-Great Presidents: Commanders In Chief introduces history in an educational and fun way, which will keep readers interested until the very end. One of the best parts of the book is that it shows that everyone—even heroic presidents—makes mistakes. The history of the presidents shows that to be a respected leader, one does not need to be perfect.
- Bill Clinton was accused of “lying under oath when asked about an inappropriate relationship he had with one of his White House Interns.”
- The book talks about different wars and sometimes includes the death count. For example, “The year was 1776, and the bloody fighting of the American Revolution was in full swing.”
- Several presidents were assassinated, but the men’s deaths are not described in detail. For example, “On July 2, 1881, he [James A. Garfield] was shot at a train station by Charles J. Guiteau, once in the back and once in the arm.”
- “On September 6, 1901, President McKinley was shot by a deranged anarchist (Leon Czolgosz) while shaking hands with supporters at the international Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.”
- Andrew Jackson was “notorious for fighting in more than a hundred duels throughout his life—including one where he still managed to kill his opponent moments after taking a bullet to the chest!”
- President Franklin Pierce “was once arrested, as president, for running over a woman with his horse.”
- During World War II, America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. “More people died in a split second than there were soldiers killed at the Battle of Gettysburg from both Northern and Southern armies combined. Most of those people were civilians.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- After George Washington served for two terms, “he returned to his farm in Mount Vernon, where he focused on his real passion: brewing moonshine (no joke)!”
- During the last days in office, President John Tyler threw a party at the White House, and “over three thousand people showed up. Several barrels of wine and eight dozen bottles of champagne” were served.
- Andrew Johnson was “a reported alcoholic.”
- Hiram Ulysses Grant became “one of the most famous generals in American history, despite his notorious reputation as an alcoholic. . . Abraham Lincoln even said, ‘I wish some of you would tell me the brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.’”
- President Franklin Pierce “could best be described as charming, indecisive, and alcoholic.” When he left the White House, he said, “There’s nothing left to do but get drunk. . . After his wife passed away, he took up binge drinking as a full-time gig and became a hermit. He died of cirrhosis of the liver because of the copious amounts of alcohol he consumed toward the end of his life.”
- Woodrow Wilson passed prohibition, “which made it illegal to buy alcohol, which a lot of people really hated.”
- Heck is used four times. For example, to coordinate D-Day, Eisenhower used “his guts, brains, and a heck of a lot of patience.”