How to Get Rid of a President by David Priess

Title: How to Get Rid of a President: History’s Guide to Removing Unpopular, Unable, or Unfit Chief Executives
Author: David Priess
Publisher: PublicAffairs
Publication Date: 11/13/2018
Classification: Nonfiction, Politics

Every president’s time in office is fleeting and, willingly or not, they’ve each had to turn power over to the next person. After two terms, President George Washington, the original, happily stepped aside upon the election of John Adams. William Henry Harrison wasn’t so lucky, becoming the first president to die in office after a mere thirty-one days. For each person who assumes the great position, it’s much less a question of when they’ll leave, but, rather, how they’ll leave.

Author David Priess explores this expertly, considering how each of the previous forty-four presidents have ultimately left the highest office in the land. The result is a compendium of vignettes suggesting the typical transition of power in the United States has been anything but peaceful. Impeachment remains the most obvious way of removing a president, but it remains one of the least used methods. After all, Richard Nixon resigned over the pressure from growing bipartisan calls for his impeachment. And George H.W. Bush was knocked aside during his reelection bid—the most democratic was of removing a president.

Reading about the more famous stories are fascinating, but Priess excels when he gets deep into the research of less obvious cases. He breaks the book up by listing the various ways a president can be removed, ranging from losing an election to being declared unable to serve. The latter section is particularly startling. His portrait of Henry Clay, who consistently lost out on the presidency through various circumstances, also deserves special mention. For being so brief, it’s deeply effective.

It’s hard to imagine this type of book being releasedwithout the current backdrop in American politics. For anyone hesitant to pickup another book featuring forty-five, it should be noted that he’s onlymentioned briefly, though he creeps over each page. The good news is that,within these pages, it becomes apparent that we’ve seen serious tribulationsbefore and we always manage to get through them. The only question is, how?

Author’s Website | Goodreads

Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.


2 thoughts on “How to Get Rid of a President by David Priess”

  1. Nice review! This sounds like an interesting take on the subject, in that avoids explicitly discussing the current administration in detail, and I’m glad to hear that Henry Clay is mentioned as well—he had such a fascinating political career.

    Liked by 1 person

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