Robert Merry

Now that the Republican and Democratic conventions are over, and before we swap 44 for 45 in November (or keep 44 for a second term), Robert Merry wants to crunch some other numbers. The Gig Harbor-born, UW-educated journalist casts his eye all the way back to president No. 1 in Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians (Simon & Schuster, $28). Washington, Lincoln, and FDR top his list—in part because they were wartime leaders. (Say what you will about Vietnam and LBJ.) Two-termers always rate better than one-shot presidents, and a crisis tends to bring out the best from a White House occupant. (Say what you will about W and 9/11.) Having covered politics for three decades in Washington, DC, Merry picks Reagan over Clinton among recent presidents. In general, he weights the opinion of the electorate—its collective wisdom—over that of the pundits. And the worst presidents? Merry cites James Buchanan ("a wispy weak reed") and Franklin Pierce ("a flawed character"). One wonders if Romney or Obama is bending back pages now in Where They Stand, imagining themselves near the top of the scale. BRIAN MILLER

Mon., Sept. 10, 7:30 p.m., 2012

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