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Publisher's Summary

Worst. President. Ever. flips the great presidential biography on its head, offering an enlightening - and highly entertaining - account of poor James Buchanan's presidency to prove once and for all that, well, few leaders could have done worse.

But author Robert Strauss does much more, leading listeners out of Buchanan's terrible term in office - meddling in the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision, exacerbating the Panic of 1857, helping foment the John Brown uprisings and "Bloody Kansas", virtually inviting a half-dozen states to secede from the Union as a lame duck, and on and on - to explore with insight and humor his own obsession with presidents, and ultimately the entire notion of ranking our presidents. He guides us through the POTUS rating game of historians and others who have made their own Mount Rushmores - or Marianas Trenches - of presidential achievement, showing why Buchanan easily loses to any of the others, but also offering insights into presidential history buffs like himself, the forgotten "lesser" presidential sites, sex and the presidency, the presidency itself, and how and why it can often take the best measures out of even the most dedicated men.

©2016 Robert Strauss (P)2016 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Strauss maintains a light tone, but doesn't sacrifice substance in offering solid historic detail and insights into American politics as the country careened toward civil war." ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 01-14-17

Intriguing

James Buchanan (1791-1868) the 15th President was a Pennsylvanian and a Southern Democrat. According to author, Robert Strauss, he was the worst president ever. Strauss states he meddled in the Supreme Court decision in the matter of a runaway slave Dred Scott. Strauss states Buchanan managed to trash almost everything he touched most of all setting the Civil War into motion.

Strauss states Buchanan was arrogant, misaligned, indecisive, misread current events and was a self-styled strict constructionist. Apparently, he also refused to listen to or seek good counsel. Strauss states his two closes rivals for the worst president are Warren G. Harding and Franklin Pierce.

The writing is average but the book is well researched. The book is written in an entertaining and humorous fashion. This is not a scholarly academic book. The author has overstated and simplified situations to make his point. The factors leading to the Civil War were years in the making and far more complex than indicated by the author. But the book was fun to read and highlighted a lesser known president.

Tom Perkins did a good job narrating the book. Perkins is an award-winning audiobook narrator.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Enjoyable But Lightweight

What did you like best about Worst. President. Ever.? What did you like least?

Breezy overview of a disastrous presidency. Little insight as to larger factors leading to the Civil War. The Impending Crisis by Potter & Fehrenbacher covers Buchanan's term with more insight and depth.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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The Least of the Lesser Presidents

I've read that it is folly to rate an "ex-president" until about 20 years since the end of (to this point) his administration. As one who has been voting for president for 30+ years, I think this is sound advice.

Buchanan was certainly an ambitious man. His time in Polk's cabinet, among other actions, demonstrated he seemed to follow a pattern of putting his own interests ahead of the team's. He was not afraid of a little gamesmanship or double dealing to permit his own star to rise. This may be, in part, how (and why) he ran - and won- in 1856.

His tenure preceded the Civil War. The manner in which he ran the government indicated he was going to do nothing to stop it. No matter what partisans may say about POTUS 44 or 45, Buchanan's place at the bottom of the rankings seems secure. Whether either joins him in the bottom quartile . . . I'll leave for historians in 2040 to decide.

Audible 20 Review Sweepstakes Entry

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Good, Not Great

This is a tough review to write because this book is greater than the sum of its parts. I think the title gives the impression it’s a lighter work than it actually is. Strauss does an admirable job of taking a deep dive into the life of James Buchanan, however I would have preferred a focus on other aspects of his biography.

The book doesn’t really get to the Buchanan’s election until around chapter 7 (out of then) and the majority of his presidency is discussed far more in terms of politics than policy. A couple of other presidents get a bit too much focus and Strauss’ spartan style of writing makes the book seem quite meandering in parts- this isn’t helped by the incredibly slow reading from the narrator. I honestly think so much (but certainly not all) of Buchanan’s presidency was so inconsequential, there just wasn’t much more that could be done with it.

That said, I did quite enjoy this book overall. I’ve developed an odd curiosity about lesser US presidents lately and I feel I know far more about the one often cited as our worst than I did before I started the book- so in that way, it was a rewarding listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Delightful!

This book is fantastic. It is exactly what the description says. It's entertaining and insightful. I enjoyed this book immensely.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Worst presidential biography ever!

Wow! After listening to the beautiful and entertaining biography by Ron Chernow on US Grant , I tried to follow up with this turkey. Written for what seems to be a 10 year old’s reading level, the first chapter intones the phrase ‘Worst President Ever’ so frequently it becomes annoying. The dissertation on on how rankings work using college sports as a metaphor was useless and distracting. Such a shame considering Buchanan’s pivotal role in the start of the civil war. Thank goodness Audible gives refunds.

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We have survived bad Presidents before

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. This book is full of interesting history that most people never learn.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

I assume the author started this project long before the election of Donald Trump, but the title suggests the publisher, at least, recognized the commercial opportunity afforded by our controversial new Commander in Chief. Still, we don't need the constant drumbeat of "Worst. President. Ever." Also, perhaps it was a necessary writing device to underrate James K. Polk, who is less familiar to the average reader than the author's preferred bookends -- Jackson and Lincoln. But that is a significant weakness in the narrative because Polk was very successful in achieving his aims as President, and he recognized Buchanan as a shallow, climbing placeholder.

What about Tom Perkins’s performance did you like?

His delivery was listenable and did not interfere with enjoying the book. Too often, Audible's readers over-dramatize or "over-gravitize" (an invented term, perhaps, but there are Audible readers so proud of their voices that they forget the reason we're listening is NOT them.)

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

No.

Any additional comments?

I enjoyed the author's discussion of the Presidential rating game, that marketing trick used by historians to win public recognition of their craft. But his analysis is a little too binary -- some good, others bad. Most have been a well-intentioned mix of success and failure.

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Just Ok.

Decently written and informative but lacking style and real insight into Buchanon's character. The narrator is a little too flat, even for an academic book like this one.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Begging to be updated for 45

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes, if only to provide further documentation that there was, and was only ever one, cause of the Civil War... slavery. The book does a decent job in detailing Buchanan's significant role in exacerbating the conflict.

If you’ve listened to books by Robert Strauss before, how does this one compare?

This is the only book by Robert Strauss I've seen or read. He has a deliberate style, punctuated by some unnecessarily florid prose.... "the time had almost come for the fat lady's quavering warble."

Have you listened to any of Tom Perkins’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

Good performance, but it's first time I've had to listen at 1.5x. Not for the content, but 1x seemed painfully slow.

Could you see Worst. President. Ever. being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Not unless it was a sitcom of a satirical nature.

Any additional comments?

It seems like the author would prefer Buchanan to be remembered as the worst President ever, rather than gay, not that those would be mutually exclusive.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful