In honor of President's Day, we've got a double-whammy of Hail-to-Chiefy goodness. Here's an exclusive CitizenSugar interview with Nick Ragone, author of the book Presidents' Most Wanted: The Top 10 Book of Extraordinary Executives, Colorful Campaigns, and White House Oddities, and right after, a chance to win a $200 Amazon gift card with which you could buy his book. I cannot tell a lie, I'm excited. Here we go!
I'm an admitted presidential trivia freak, as I'm sure you are. Hit me with a tidbit of trivia you uncovered while you were writing this book that surprised even you.
John Quincy Adams had a pet alligator in the White House. James Madison was the shortest president — 5'4". Woodrow Wilson's picture was on the $100,000 bill, which is no longer in circulation. Wilson also played 1,200 rounds of golf while in the White House — more than even Eisenhower.
If you could head back in history to grab one president and install him in the White House again come 2009, who would it be?
It goes without saying that Lincoln would be the first choice. But not far behind is Teddy Roosevelt — I think he'd be a great leader for these times. He was an activist president and reformer. I think the office can use his energy right now. And Harry Truman as well. He had a certain resolve that seems appropriate for our challenges.
Your book uncovers the biggest presidential blunders — what snafu really makes you cringe?
Andrew Johnson's approach to Reconstruction. He was much too lenient on the South, and probably set race relations back by 50 years. Just an awful, awful blunder.
I love your quote in Page Six, "I'd send a copy to Fred Thompson, but I think he's too lazy to read it." So you're not a recovering "Fred-Head?" Have you picked your candidate in this race? To find out who,
I think all three remaining candidates — Hillary, Obama, and McCain — have their strengths, and all three would make good presidents. I do think that Obama has tapped into something that JFK and Ronald Reagan had — optimism and hope. It's very difficult to defeat the candidate of vision and hope.
How do you think the office of president has evolved over time? Is there one key difference in the way presidents are thought of (or behave) now, vs. presidents of yore?
The office has undergone a dramatic transformation. Nineteenth-century presidents, for the most part, were "caretakers," meaning Congress really drove domestic policy, and the president was mostly a secondary player (Jackson and Lincoln the notable exceptions).
Teddy Roosevelt's presidency marked the beginning of the "imperial" presidency, and FDR — with the New Deal — really solidified the presidency as the most powerful institution in the world. It seems like the office accrues more and more power every year.
Check back here for the big President's Day giveaway, and enter for a chance for Amazon bucks!