The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity
By: Nancy Gibbs & Michael Duffy
Source: eBook; my purchase
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.
I picked this volume up around the time of former President George HW Bush’s funeral. There was a lot of talk about the small club of former presidents and how they only meet on occasions of presidential libraries being open and funerals, and I remember coming across this book time and again so I decided to check it out.
This book was really a fascinating read about the relationships between presidents and ex-presidents and amongst ex-presidents. Of course I’m familiar with the more recent Bush-Clinton team-ups but reading more about it, how it went about, how the different personalities mesh was really interesting and fun to read. But it was also interesting to read how older presidents got along, the animosity that lingered for some time (e.g. Truman and Eisenhower, for example) but also how presidents would build upon the presidents’ clubs, setting up their unspoken rules, setting up anuities and other services for ex-presidents. It made sense especially after life expectancy increased in the last few decades and the ex-presidents grew considerably at one point. At times enraging at how some relationships would become antagonistic/volatile, at times amusing, I really enjoyed this book and the complex relationships they had, how devoted they were to the institution and to their country regardless of party affiliation and what went down during the elections. Which makes me wonder how the 45th President of the United States will factor in once he’s out of office.
Oh, and yeah, I also learned you can never rely on Carter for anything, lol.
Overall this is a really informative book. It’s not a recount of all the individuals’ presidencies–although of course they factored in greatly to how these relationships played out–but rather about the men themselves, their relationship to the Oval Office, their relationships with one another both during their presidency, before, and after. It’s absolutely fascinating and I highly recommend it.