The Presidents Club, established at Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration by Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover, is a complicated place: its members are bound forever by the experience of the Oval Office and yet are eternal rivals for history’s favor. Among their secrets: How Jack Kennedy tried to blame Ike for the Bay of Pigs. How Ike quietly helped Reagan win his first race in 1966. How Richard Nixon conspired with Lyndon Johnson to get elected and then betrayed him. How Jerry Ford and Jimmy Carter turned a deep enmity into an alliance. The unspoken pact between a father and son named Bush. And the roots of the rivalry between Clinton and Barack Obama.
Time magazine editors and presidential historians Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy offer a new and revealing lens on the American presidency, exploring the club as a hidden instrument of power that has changed the course of history.
In this anecdote-rich book, Gibbs and Duffy, the deputy managing editor and executive editor of Time, respectively, maintain that the relationships among former presidents have been characterized by "cooperation, competition, and consolation." Perhaps the most interesting tie they discuss is their first: Faced with the great need for food relief in Europe in 1945, Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover (who had provided food relief to Europe in WWI) overcame their mutual distrust to rally non-isolationist Republicans around the Marshall Plan. Another striking example of bipartisan cooperation, was that between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton to raise millions for the victims of the 2004 tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the Haitian earthquake. But the authors' most remarkable stories are of competition, such as candidate Richard Nixon pursuing his own diplomatic track with North Vietnam, undermining LBJ's efforts to secure a peace deal to end the Vietnam War. As for consolation, and plain practical help, Gibbs and Duffy (co-authors of The Preacher and the Presidents, about the Rev. Billy Graham) provide numerous examples, such as Kennedy relying on Eisenhower (whom he once called "that old asshole") for advice following the Bay of Pigs fiasco. While this work could have used some pruning, it is canny, vivid, and informative on an important and little-explored subject. 16 pages of b&w photos.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Couldn't wait for the end to write the review
It is history written in a different way. A must read for anybody that follows the American presidential history.
I couldn’t put it down—and was sad to finish it. I would have liked at least something about pre-Truman presidents, but I suppose the original sources would not have been as plentiful. Perhaps a topic for a future book?