Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The President is a Sick Man by Matthew Algeo

On the plane on the way back from Hawaii, I started reading The President is a Sick Man: Wherein the Supposedly Virtuous Grover Cleveland Survives a Secret Surgery at Sea and Vilifies the Courageous Newspaperman Who Dared Expose the Truth by Matthew Algeo. I stumbled across the book while wandering through and was intrigued by the description. This is part of my project to read books about all of the presidents.

Cleveland is the only president to serve nonconsecutive terms. He rose quickly from the Mayor of Buffalo to Governor of New York to the President of the United of States. Cleveland was elected president for the first time in 1884, lost to Harrison in 1888 and was elected again in 1892. He is one of only two presidents to win the popular vote more than two times (Cleveland and FDR) and one of only two candidates to win the popular vote, but lose the electoral vote (Cleveland and Gore). He was the second president to marry while in office, and the only president to have a wedding in the White House.

Former President Ulysses S. Grant died a horrible death of mouth cancer in 1885. When Cleveland discovered a growth in his own mouth early in his second term, his physician was sure that it was also cancer. Partially due to the financial condition of the country, Cleveland and his closet advisors decided to have a secret surgery performed. The book explores these events and the aftermath, particularly the efforts that were undertaken to keep the surgery secret.

Although focusing on this event early in Cleveland's second term, the book does provides a good overview of Glover Cleveland. I was surprised to learn that one of the most volatile issues of the 1880s was whether the currency should be backed by gold and silver or by gold alone.

I enjoyed the book; I give it a B+. At some point, I am going to read a more comprehensive biography on Glover Cleveland.

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