MixedThe Wall Street Journal... as detailed an exploration of the 1960 presidential race as can be found. [Gellman\'s] bibliography and endnotes encompass fully 125 pages. In lean prose and a hammering style, he presents a catalog of complaints designed to present Nixon as the victim of hostile reporters, rabid partisans and biased historians. ... There are elements of truth in this account ... This revisionist tract is sure to kick up controversy. But it’s worth noting that nothing ever stays the same for long in public life. Just eight years after that 1960 campaign, the world was a different place: Kennedy was dead; Lyndon Johnson, having hit the shoals of Vietnam, retired from politics; and the American people turned to the opposition Republicans.
David S. Reynolds
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... a prodigious and lucidly rendered exposition of the character and thought of the 16th president ... More character study than narrative biography, this Lincoln portrait ... goes further than most previous studies in probing the complexities and nuances of the man ... At the same time, Reynolds succumbs to a pitfall in drawing conclusions about how particular Lincoln experiences influenced his later thoughts and actions when no evidence for such causal effects is discernible.
PanThe Wall Street Journal... engaging but flawed ... we can discern an underlying theme of Mr. Dallek’s thesis, not explicitly articulated and perhaps not even consciously embraced but lurking nonetheless in the interstices of his argument. It is that the voters are essentially stupid ... No, Reagan didn’t give us Mr. Trump, and neither did Teddy Roosevelt or any of his 20th-century successors. Mr. Trump’s rise, like that of every president, improbable or predictable, was the product of distinct political, cultural and social forces welling up from within America in his time. Mr. Dallek, declaring himself mystified by the question of how Mr. Trump got elected, ponders whether it was a \'fluke\' or the product of \'something deeper in American society that spawned so unsuitable a character to become president.\' Good question. This book, despite its title, doesn’t offer much of an answer.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... a discursive romp through American history that focuses on the eight presidents who took office upon the death of their predecessors ... Mr. Cohen is hard on Calvin Coolidge ... By excoriating the advisers, Mr. Cohen almost gives LBJ a pass on Vietnam, whereas in reality presidents, even those thrust into office by tragic events, make the decisions and must shoulder the blame for their mistakes. One of the many insights to be found in Accidental Presidents is that history unfolds in death as well as in life.
David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler
RaveThe Wall Street JournalIn The Rise of Andrew Jackson, David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler essentially take the Rogin view. The Heidlers, who in 2010 published a sensitive and luminous biography of Jackson’s great rival Henry Clay, here trace Jackson’s life through his 1828 presidential election, when he won his first presidential term ... The Heidlers are fine historians; their Clay biography is rich in detail and literarily vibrant. Clearly in the epic political struggle between Clay and Jackson, Clay is their man. They have rendered here a picture of Jackson that seems pretty close to what that great Kentuckian would have written back in the day.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalIt’s difficult to argue with the academic surveys on presidential performance that consistently rank FDR as among the three greatest presidents, along with Lincoln and Washington. To judge by Franklin D. Roosevelt : A Political Life, Robert Dallek shares that assessment. He tells his story through sturdy, unadorned prose that provides little literary style or dramatic scene-setting for the casual reader. But he writes with thoroughness and clarity, and the subject’s remarkable life buoys the narrative … Mr. Dallek’s narrative picks up some vibrancy..but he finesses the president’s more questionable efforts to nudge America into alignment with the beleaguered nations of Britain, France and China. He essentially gives FDR a pass on what was almost certainly a violation of the U.S. Neutrality Acts … Neither does Mr. Dallek give his readers a clear picture of the diplomatic brutality undergirding U.S. relations with Japan after Roosevelt pushed that country into a position of near desperation.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalWith no overarching theme, the book amounts to a pleasing melange of observations, admonitions, homilies, and celebrations of events and figures from the American past ... What stands out in these portraits is how utterly devoid they are of the cynicism that infuses so much of contemporary culture. Mr. McCullough certainly turns no blind eye to the vicissitudes of human nature...But fundamentally Mr. McCullough loves the American story and its most illustrious characters ... Valuable encouragement then, even more needed today.