Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America

Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America

by Jared Cohen


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This New York Times bestselling “deep dive into the terms of eight former presidents is chock-full of political hijinks—and déjà vu” (Vanity Fair) and provides a fascinating look at the men who came to the office without being elected to it, showing how each affected the nation and world.

The strength and prestige of the American presidency has waxed and waned since George Washington. Eight men have succeeded to the presidency when the incumbent died in office. In one way or another they vastly changed our history. Only Theodore Roosevelt would have been elected in his own right. Only TR, Truman, Coolidge, and LBJ were re-elected.

John Tyler succeeded William Henry Harrison who died 30 days into his term. He was kicked out of his party and became the first president threatened with impeachment. Millard Fillmore succeeded esteemed General Zachary Taylor. He immediately sacked the entire cabinet and delayed an inevitable Civil War by standing with Henry Clay’s compromise of 1850. Andrew Johnson, who succeeded our greatest president, sided with remnants of the Confederacy in Reconstruction. Chester Arthur, the embodiment of the spoils system, was so reviled as James Garfield’s successor that he had to defend himself against plotting Garfield’s assassination; but he reformed the civil service. Theodore Roosevelt broke up the trusts. Calvin Coolidge silently cooled down the Harding scandals and preserved the White House for the Republican Herbert Hoover and the Great Depression. Harry Truman surprised everybody when he succeeded the great FDR and proved an able and accomplished president. Lyndon B. Johnson was named to deliver Texas electorally. He led the nation forward on Civil Rights but failed on Vietnam.

Accidental Presidents shows that “history unfolds in death as well as in life” (The Wall Street Journal) and adds immeasurably to our understanding of the power and limits of the American presidency in critical times.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501109829
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 04/09/2019
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 8,282
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Jared Cohen is the founder and CEO of Jigsaw at Alphabet Inc. He also serves as an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Previously, he ran Google Ideas at Google Inc. and served as chief advisor to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. From 2006 to 2010 he served as a member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff and as a close advisor to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Accidental Presidents, The New Digital Age, Children of Jihad, and One Hundred Days of Silence: America and the Rwanda Genocide. He lives in New York with his wife and two daughters.

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Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous 8 months ago
This is an interesting review of the people who found themselves in a position they didn't plan for but were forced into. I had the opportunity to experience some of this in my lifetime and agree with much of what is written. However, some of it it too opinionated, in my view, and doesn't do an adequate job of explaining details leading to decisions some of these men made.
Bookoholiccafe More than 1 year ago
In accidental presidents, Jared Cohen is focusing on eight American presidents who came to the office without them being elected. And the fact that how their nature and personality Shifts and alter the world and the entire country. And how these eight men really changed the history. Accidental presidents also enhance a great comprehension of limits and powers faced through presidency's critical times. A very educational book. I knew about five but had no idea about the other three. Accidental presidents also offer several new and unheard stories. One thing I really liked about this book was the history was brought to life. Very well written book and wild at the same time. I found Roosevelt's chapter the most interesting chapter. Many thanks to Net Galley and the Publisher for sending me an advanced copy.
MaryND More than 1 year ago
Examining the eight Vice Presidents who assumed the presidency due to the death of their predecessors in office is an interesting premise for a book, and with Accidental Presidents, Jared Cohen pulls it off nicely. He seems to warm to his subject as the chapters go on (probably because the later presidents and the circumstances they find themselves in are more compelling than the earlier ones—let’s face it, who really remembers Millard Fillmore or Chester Arthur?). Although some biographical information on each is included, the book’s focus is firmly on the vice presidencies of these eight men and their ascent to the White House, and on how prepared or, in most cases, unprepared they were for their new role. I found the chapters on Harry Truman the most fascinating in this respect, as he (along with Andrew Johnson) arguably faced the most difficult issues from the moment he took the oath. (Interestingly, Truman is one of the two accidental presidents—Teddy Roosevelt is the other—who gets highest marks from Cohen, who ranks Johnson as the worst.) There were times when I wished I had more historical context—Cohen does try to set the stage for each presidency, but this is certainly not an exhaustive study—but I think this is just a natural constraint of the project’s scope. Chock full of fun facts and interesting historical tidbits (who knew that Eleanor Roosevelt wrote HUNDREDS of letters to Harry Truman offering unsolicited advice on every issue imaginable?), Accidental Presidents is a nice addition to the genre.