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Friday, March 23, 2012

The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents from Wilson to Obama (P.I.G. Series) by Steven F. Hayward



An entertaining read and a great way to rate the presidents

Published in 2012 by Regnery Publishing, Inc.

First and foremost, the latest entry in the P.I.G. series is a great read. Steven Hayward is to be commended for making what could have been a very stale read into an entertaining read - he has a light touch.

Secondly, how sad is it that grading presidents by how well they "preserve, protect, and defend" the constitution is a unique idea?

Hayward begins with a look at what the founders wrote about the office of the president and compares that to the modern presidency. He then looks at the presidency in the 19th century and how most presidents took the restrictions of the Constitution very seriously.

As Hayward proceeds to grade the 17 presidents we have had from 1913 until the present on an A to F scale (just like in school) he gives a thumbnail sketch of each president with the major issues of the election and/or his time in office, where he diverged from the Constitution (or supported it) and how the Supreme Court justices he appointed fared by way of the Constitution as well.

Each president gets about 8-12 pages per term in office and the text includes sidebar boxes with recommended readings, great quotes and interesting factoids. The overall grade is presented on the first page of each president's particular chapter and the last page explains how it was arrived at.


Richard Nixon, president from 1969-1974
So, what did I think? I agreed with the great majority of the grades given, although there were some I would have been a little tougher on or a little easier on (a C+ vs. a C- type of thing). I very much disagreed with the C+ for Richard Nixon - and not because of Watergate (although Hayward largely excuses it with the "the other guys did it, too!" defense) . The growth of the regulatory bureaucracy under Nixon was incredible - according to a factoid on page 173 it grew by 121% under Nixon. Throw in federal wage and price controls and I don't see how you can give Nixon the C+ that Hayward does.

But, that is just one grade out of 17 (and even that chapter was interesting). This is a book that I am going to keep handy for those great online political debates. Nothing like a great Warren G. Harding quote like this one: "There is not a menace in the world today like that of growing public indebtedness and mounting public expenditure" to get a little discussion going in this election year, huh?

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents from Wilson to Obama.

Reviewed on March 23, 2012.

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