A vivid political history of the schemes, plots, maneuvers, and conspiracies that have attempted -- successfully and not -- to remove unwanted presidents
To limit executive power, the founding fathers created fixed presidential terms of four years, giving voters regular opportunities to remove their leaders. Even so, Americans have often resorted to more dramatic paths to disempower the chief executive. The American presidency has seen it all, from rejecting a sitting president's renomination bid and undermining their authority in office to the more drastic methods of impeachment, and, most brutal of all, assassination.
How to Get Rid of a President showcases the political dark arts in action: a stew of election dramas, national tragedies, and presidential departures mixed with party intrigue, personal betrayal, and backroom shenanigans. This briskly paced, darkly humorous voyage proves that while the pomp and circumstance of presidential elections might draw more attention, the way that presidents are removed teaches us much more about our political order.
Former CIA officer Priess (The President's Book of Secrets) capitalizes on today's keen interest in truncated terms of office in these piquant studies of presidential woe. He covers all the most dramatic ways a presidency can end, including impeachment; resignation before looming impeachment; assassination, which was an easier proposition in the 19th century, when the lack of security details, he notes, made it easy to saunter up to a president with a gun; and death by sudden infection, which felled William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor early in their respective terms. Priess also digs into less spectacular but perhaps more poignant presidential failures: John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and Chester A. Arthur were all not renominated by their parties for a second term; Samuel Tilden was denied the office by a corrupt backroom deal; Woodrow Wilson was secretly replaced by his wife after a stroke incapacitated him; Calvin Coolidge silently wilted from depression. A litany of others were denied reelection by voters. Unlike the many impeachment primers now being published, Priess's tome doesn't offer much assessment of prospects for removal; instead he gives readers a collection of colorful, slightly morbid vignettes that connoisseurs of political picaresque will relish.