Where They Stand by Robert W. Merry
The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians

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Knowledgeable about the past, well read in the scholarly literature, Merry is given to moderate and sensible judgments, patiently argued in straightforward prose.
-NY Times

Synopsis

The author of the acclaimed biography of President James Polk, A Country of Vast Designs, offers a fresh, playful, and challenging way of playing “Rating the Presidents,” by pitching historians’ views and subsequent experts’ polls against the judgment and votes of the presidents’ own contemporaries.

Merry posits that presidents rise and fall based on performance, as judged by the electorate. Thus, he explores the presidency by comparing the judgments of historians with how the voters saw things. Was the president reelected? If so, did his party hold office in the next election?

Where They Stand examines the chief executives Merry calls “Men of Destiny,’’ those who set the country toward new directions. There are six of them, including the three nearly always at the top of all academic polls—Lincoln, Washington, and FDR. He describes the “Split-Decision Presidents’’ (including Wilson and Nixon)—successful in their first terms and reelected; less successful in their second terms and succeeded by the opposition party. He describes the “Near Greats’’ (Jefferson, Jackson, Polk, TR, Truman), the “War Presidents’’ (Madison, McKinley, Lyndon Johnson), the flat-out failures (Buchanan, Pierce), and those whose standing has fluctuated (Grant, Cleveland, Eisenhower).

This voyage through our history provides a probing and provocative analysis of how presidential politics works and how the country sets its course. Where They Stand invites readers to pitch their opinions against the voters of old, the historians, the pollsters—and against the author himself. In this year of raucous presidential politics, Where They Stand will provide a context for the unfolding campaign drama.
 

About Robert W. Merry

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Robert Merry is the editor of The National Interest. He has been a Washington correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and the Executive Editor of the Congressional Quarterly. He has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, The National Review, The American Spectator, and The National Interest. He has appeared in Meet the Press, Face the Nation, Newsmakers, and many other programs. He lives in McLean, Virginia.
 
Published June 26, 2012 by Simon & Schuster. 320 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, War. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Where They Stand
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by David Greenberg on Sep 28 2012

Knowledgeable about the past, well read in the scholarly literature, Merry is given to moderate and sensible judgments, patiently argued in straightforward prose.

Read Full Review of Where They Stand: The America... | See more reviews from NY Times

WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by James W Ceaser on Jun 22 2012

...marred by its preoccupation with measurable indexes whose criteria are at most consequences, not causes, of excellence. It does not look high enough.

Read Full Review of Where They Stand: The America... | See more reviews from WSJ online

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