Robert Strauss - "Worst. President. Ever." - Richard Babcock

Wednesday, November 16, 2016 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm

"Robert Strauss is perhaps The Funniest. Presidential Biographer. Ever. But it is no joke that he has turned the story of James Buchanan—indisputably the Worst. President. Ever—into a fascinating tale on the triumph of mediocrity. It would be hilarious—except that Buchanan ushered in a bloody Civil War. Unfortunately for all of us, Strauss also makes a good case that some contemporary seekers of high office are eerily reminiscent of Buchanan’s 19th century Know-Nothing comrades." — Kai Bird, author of The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames

Robert Strauss dicusses Worst. President. Ever. James Buchanan, the POTUS Rating Game, and the Legacy of the Least of the Lesser Presidents. He will be joined in conversation by Richard Babcock. 

At 57th Street Books 


About the book: Worst. President. Ever. flips the great presidential biography on its head, offering an enlightening—and highly entertaining!—account of poor James Buchanan’s presidency to prove once and for all that, well, few leaders could have done worse. 

But author Robert Strauss does much more, leading readers out of Buchanan’s terrible term in office—meddling in the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision, exacerbating the Panic of 1857, helping foment the John Brown uprisings and “Bloody Kansas,” virtually inviting a half-dozen states to secede from the Union as a lame duck, and on and on—to explore with insight and humor his own obsession with presidents, and ultimately the entire notion of ranking our presidents. He guides us through the POTUS rating game of historians and others who have made their own Mount Rushmores—or Marianas Trenches!—of presidential achievement, showing why Buchanan easily loses to any of the others, but also offering insights into presidential history buffs like himself, the forgotten "lesser" presidential sites, sex and the presidency, the presidency itself, and how and why it can often take the best measures out of even the most dedicated men. 

About the author: Journalist, educator, historian and author Robert Strauss has been a reporter for Sports Illustrated, a feature writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, a news and sports producer for an NBC affiliate, and a TV critic for thePhiladelphia Inquirer and the Asbury Park Press. He has more than 1000 bylines in the New York Times, and also writes for the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia newspapers, Sports Illustrated, Fortune, and more. He is the author of Daddy’s Little Goalie. A father of two daughters, he lives in Haddonfield, New Jersey, with his wife Susan Warner.

About the interlocutor: Until stepping down in 2011, Richard Babcock was the longtime editor in chief of Chicago magazine. Under his direction, Chicago won many awards, including a National Magazine Award for General Excellence in 2004. Before that, he spent more than a decade as a top editor at New York magazine. He is the author of three novels and two best-selling Kindle Singles. Raised in Woodstock, Illinois, Babcock graduated from Dartmouth College and the University of Michigan Law School. He lives in Chicago with his wife, Gioia Diliberto, a biographer and novelist. Babcock teaches at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, and he has also taught at Knox College, the Savannah College of Art and Design, and Loyola University Chicago.

(Babcock and Robert Strauss were colleagues early in their careers at The Record, a mid-sized daily in Bergen County, NJ. Babcock recalls coaxing Strauss through a long article on the 25th anniversary of the New Jersey Turnpike.)

Event Location: 
57th Street Books
1301 E. 57th Street
Chicago, IL 60637