Jared Cohen – Accidental Presidents


The strength and prestige of the American presidency has waxed and waned since George Washington. Accidental Presidents looks at eight men who came to the office without being elected to it. It demonstrates how the character of the man in that powerful seat affects the nation and world.

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, Coolidge, Truman, and LBJ were reelected.

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 Clays compromise of 1850.

Chester Arthur, the embodiment of the spoils system, was so reviled as James Garfields successor that he had to defend himself against plotting Garfields assassination; but he reformed the civil service.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded our greatest president, sided with remnants of the Confederacy in Reconstruction.

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.

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 adds immeasurably to our understanding of the power and limits of the American presidency in critical times.

Author: Jared Cohen
Narrator: Arthur Morey
Duration: 16 hours 57 minutes
Released: 19 Sep 2004
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Language: English

User Review:

dispatcher urinary

Not only was the content dynamite– but the writing is just as great. As a POTUS fanatic (especially of the obscure chiefs like Tyler, Taylor, Johnson, Arthur etc), there isn’t much I haven’t heard/read about the presidents– but Jared Cohen certainly mined deep enough to find a few wonderful nuggets of which I was hitherto unaware.

HOWEVER, as a fellow POTUS fanatic, I must point out a few mistakes:

Regarding Tylers second wife, the author writes: at 24, Julia became the youngest First Lady in American history a title she will likely retain… yet that was proven wrong as she ceased to retain said title in 1886 when Frances Folsom Cleveland became the youngest First Lady at 21 yrs old.

The author mentioned that since Woodrow Wilsons stroke left him unable to move significant potions on his face, he grew a mustache and beard for the first time in his life. This isn’t true. Just search “Woodrow Wilson 1883” and you’ll see.

In the final chapter, the author writes When I saw Oliver Stones 1994 film about the Kennedy assassination. But that film came out in 1991.

Audiobook narrator mistake: Arthur Morey once says John TAYLOR instead of John Tyler. I rewinded three times to make sure I wasnt mishearing it.

Also, something that seemed nonsensical:
I understand utilizing the “Close Calls” chapter to mention near-deaths via illnesses (A.Johnson/ Wilson) or assassination attempts (Jackson/Ford)– but why wait until this chapter to mention “close calls” regarding Truman by Puerto Rican nationalists or the attempted bombing of president-elect JFK (and hence, its affect on LBJ) instead of during the chapters that initially dealt with these men? The author certainly didnt save ALL “close calls” for that late chapter. For instance, he mentioned Tylers near-death aboard the Princeton and T.R.s carriage accident in those men’s respective chapters. So why not Truman’s “close call” in the Truman chapter or JFK’s “close call” in LBJ’s chapter?

And finally, I’ve never encountered the word “particularly” more in a book. I noticed it because that is a very hard word to pronounce in voice-over; although Mr. Morey aced it every time.