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Friday, August 22, 2014

Review: The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy

Title: The Presidents Club
Authors: Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publish Date: April 17, 2012
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "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."

My Two Cents:

I've always been intrigued by what former Presidents do after they retire. Here they are, the former commander-in-chief and the former leaders of the free world, and after a maximum of eight years, they go from being arguably the most powerful people in the country back to private life. I've always wondered how they felt about that. Some of the Presidents have been very much in the public eye after their presidency ended (Jimmy Carter has done so much as an ex-president) and others have largely stayed out of the public eye (we haven't seen too much of George W. Bush since he left office).

Whether or not they stay in the public eye, these men are part of a special club. Arguably, they are the only other people that really understand the pressure and the pulls that the POTUS must face and it seems like a lot of former presidents are really willing to come in and support and give advice where wanted or needed to current Presidents. In this time of great partisan divide, it was kind of nice to see some of the top dogs transcending party for the good of the country.

This book focuses largely on the Truman and Eisenhower administrations to the present and it covers a lot of the relationships between various Presidents. I absolutely loved reading about these friendships (or enemy-ships as it were). It shows a side of a lot of these great men that you wouldn't normally get to see in a history book. Some had or have very close relationships (I didn't realize how close George H.W. and Bill Clinton were) and others had very bad or at least very tenuous relationships (Reagan and Nixon). I think this book was definitely a good reminder that when it comes down to it, Presidents are still just people.

Overall, I think history fans who want a more intimate look at some of our recent Presidents will really enjoy this book.



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