The words to describe this book are not the words usually used in academic reviews—fun, quirky, creative. The book has its merits, but it is neither systematic enough to be useful to historians nor sufficiently committed to one method or a series of methods to merit consideration as a contribution to interdisciplinary history. Like a visitor from another planet, the book most suits its own habitat, far beyond the academic universe.

Morris begins with a great idea. Although some might consider today’s presidential campaign the world’s most extensive, expensive, high-stakes, over-the-top beauty contest, it is more like the world’s most important, systematic, albeit highly scrutinized job search—with one of the largest teams of evaluators (India wins that last distinction). Given that vision, it makes sense to assess successful presidents, losers, also-rans, and what-ifs as an executive recruiter would.

Morris is, the book jacket reports, “a former...

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