how do I align the camera with a particular object in scene?

I have an object in a scene. I want the camera directly in front of the object and aligned with it. I’ve tried rotating the camera along x, y, and z axis but cannot get it aligned to the object. When I render the scene, the object always comes out crooked along some axis. Any ideas?

View, Align View, Align active camera to view.

The easiest way to me is to set the view up in such a way as you want to see it in the camera. This may be done by selecting the object and hitting period on the numpad to focus on that object (obviously this does not work for large scenes). Then select the camera and align it to your current view (Ctrl+Alt+Numpad 0).
To fine tune the camera position you can switch on the “lock camera to view” in the properties panel of the 3D view (shortcut N-key) under the Tab Display and zoom rotate and so forth (the camera must be selected for that to work). Do not forget to deselect this option when you are satisfied with your camera position.
Another way I find some times useful is to set my courser to the objects position and move the camera based on the cursor (period key)

Another way to zoom the camera in or out:
In camera view, right click on the rectangle outline to select the camera, type G to grab, then hold down the middle mouse key and drag the mouse.

this had no effect at all.

the x-y-z of the camera is not aligned with the object so I cannot so easily just pull the camera back along the x or y axis

First, align the view to the selected object, with Shift+Numpad1 (this will align the view to the front of the object.)

Then align active camera to view (Ctrl+Alt+Numpad0)