About Worst. President. Ever.:“It’s ironic that Pennsylvania’s only President, James Buchanan, is almost universally proclaimed as our worst. His bumbling performance as President belied the fact that he had perhaps the best previous experience that would qualify him to serve in the Oval Office—as a State Legislature, a Congressman, a U.S. Senator, an Ambassador to Russia and Great Britain, and Secretary of State. In this book, Robert Strauss details the Buchanan presidency in an entertaining and humorous fashion, and also takes potshots at the concept of ranking our presidents. It is a must read for those interested in the history of the presidency.”
“Authors who want to teach us the secrets of the best are a dime a dozen. Only Robert Strauss could show us what we have to learn from the worst. Worst. President. Ever. is a tour de force—entertaining and edifying in equal measure.”
“Count me among those media personalities who’ve been solicited to engage in our national parlor game: Ranking American Presidents. You know the drill. We reflexively offer Abraham Lincoln and George Washington as among the best of American presidents, and then, depending upon contemporary bias, toss in Ronald Reagan or maybe cite the abbreviated tenure of John F. Kennedy. But at the bottom of the list, there’s rarely debate. Rather, near-unanimity that America’s worst chief executive was the only Pennsylvanian to inhabit the White House, James Buchanan. Now comes Robert Strauss with Worst. Present. Ever., which demands that we justify our pre-conceived opinions on Buchanan’s tenure. Perhaps history, in the absence of scholarly analysis like that which has been shown on Buchanan’s brethren, has judged No. 15, arguably the most credentialed candidate ever to assume the presidency, too harshly. I’ll not give away the insight and analysis. Suffice it to say that Strauss makes his case in a manner to be appreciated by both serious historians and modern day politicos. This treatment of a critical piece of Pre-Civil War history will leave readers engaged, entertained, and better equipped to justify their next ranking of Buchanan’s true place in American history.”
"Active until late in the Andrew Jackson administration, John Marshall (1755-1835) was the last of his generation still in high office. The only founder who outlived him, James Madison, was long retired. Son of a small Virginia landowner, Marshall served several years in the Continental Army during the Revolution. After studying law, he became an influential figure in the conservative Tidewater establishment and a Federalist. Together with Madison, he worked hard to persuade Virginia to ratify the Constitution, which it did, narrowly. George Washington offered him several jobs in his administration, but he declined. He traveled to France on a diplomatic mission under John Adams, who appointed him secretary of state in 1800 and then chief justice in 1801, two months before leaving office. This annoyed the incoming president, Thomas Jefferson (already an enemy); at the time, however, the Supreme Court was not a powerful body, so he didn’t make an issue of it. Despite exceptions such as Stephen Budiansky’s Oliver Wendell Holmes (2019), biographies of judges rarely make for gripping reading. Though not on that level, journalist and historian Strauss’ interpretation is solid, stressing that Marshall’s vigorous leadership elevated the court to a co-equal branch of government and gave it the power (not mentioned in the Constitution) to invalidate state and federal laws. The author examines Marshall’s landmark legal accomplishments, but he also digresses into sections on a host of intriguing historical ideas. After mentioning that Marshall was considered a potential presidential candidate, Strauss inserts a long chapter describing a dozen Americans who yearned to be president but failed—e.g., Henry Clay, William Seward, William Jennings Bryan, Adlai Stevenson. At his death, Marshall became a mythical figure. Strauss devotes a chapter to other leaders who attained mythical status, from Washington to Kennedy. Readers concerned with the present makeup of the court may be reassured to learn about the worst justices of the past."