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Star-Spangled Men


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About the Author

Nathan Miller is the author of Star-Spangled Men, a Simon & Schuster book.


Combining brief biographical profiles with scathing critiques, this one-man's rogues' gallery offers up Miller's (The Roosevelt Chronicles) opinions on who he considers to be the least successful American presidents. The trenchant though often superficial nature of this account is first revealed in the table of contents, where Miller lambastes William Howard Taft for being so fat he got stuck in a White House bathtub and characterizes Benjamin Harrison as looking like a "medieval gnome" with a handshake like a "wilted petunia," as if these qualities affected leadership. In an epilogue, he deflates two more presidents as the "most overrated"‘John F. Kennedy, whom he calls a "confirmed cold warrior" (wasn't virtually everyone in those days?), and Thomas Jefferson, whom he accuses of wrecking the nation's economy and leading the country to war with Britain through the Embargo Act of 1807. Miller writes with passion in this irreverent broadside, where opinion tends to overstep analysis. (Feb.)

Few Americans, let alone historians, express much interest in the worst events or characters, as such, in our history, but presidential historian Miller (The Roosevelt Chronicles, LJ 10/15/97) decided to investigate whom he considers to be the ten worst presidents. His self-described subjective but nonpartisan criteria for measuring our "failed" leaders include bad character, dishonesty, inability to compromise, lack of vision, weak political skills, failure to communicate, and‘his most important consideration‘"How badly did they damage the nation they were supposed to serve?" Each individual‘Carter, Taft, Harrison, Coolidge, Grant, Andrew Johnson, Pierce, Buchanan, Harding, and Nixon‘receives about 20 pages, in which Miller provides little more than a Reader's Digest version of a political biography. In the last chapter, the author writes about Jefferson and Kennedy‘in his opinion, the two most overrated presidents. There is little to recommend this book to anyone who seriously wants to understand any of these presidents, especially the two "overrated" ones.‘Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

The Tampa Tribune A disturbing view of a system where presidential candidates are often chosen on the basis of their inability to upset anyone, thus making mediocrity one of the aspects of job description.
Anne Stephenson The Arizona Republic The interesting, often funny stories [Miller] tells are comforting proof that we've had bad presidents before, and survived them all.
John Dorfman The Washington Post Book World An amusing and instructive book...what stands out are his anecdotes, most of them humorous or just plain bizarre.
Lowell Branham The Knoxville News-Sentinel Anyone who's studied history might wonder how Miller was able to boil his list down to only ten.

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