The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity
Nancy Gibbs, Michael Duffy
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The New York Times bestselling history of the private relationships among the last thirteen presidents—the partnerships, private deals, rescue missions, and rivalries of those select men who served as commander in chief.
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.
an attempt on Bush’s life go unanswered. The impending U.S. attack would be Clinton’s first use of military force as president; he wasn’t merely informing his predecessor of his decision; he was seeking his advice. And perhaps, in a way, his consent. As Clinton’s advisor George Stephanopoulos recalled it, Clinton said, “We completed our investigation. Both the CIA and the FBI did an excellent job. It was directed against you. I’ve ordered a cruise missile attack.” Stephanopoulos recalled that
Margaret Truman (New York: Warner Books, 1989), 69. One of the last things: Miller, Plain Speaking, 339–40. “I would feel far more comfortable”: Dwight D. Eisenhower to George Marshall, June 4, 1945, Pre-Presidential Papers: Principal File: Box 32, “Marshall, George,” Dwight D. Eisenhower Papers, Dwight D. Eisenhower Library. He apologized to Marshall: Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President, 209–10. Eisenhower’s very public failure: “Halfway; Campaign Gets Rough,” New York Times, October
understand imaginatively the nature and greatness of the office he holds.” He was surrounded by “moochers” and “big bellied, good-natured guys who knew a lot of dirty jokes,” charged the ecumenically lethal columnist I. F. Stone. Far from feeling like the seat of a great democracy, Truman’s White House, columnist Joseph Alsop observed, was like “the lounge of the Lions Club of Independence, Missouri,” rank with the odor of “ten cent cigars.” Eisenhower, on the other hand, had by this time earned
they’ve all sat in the chair, they become jealous of its powers, convinced that however clumsy the other branches of government can be, the president must be able to serve the people and defend the nation when all else fails. They can support whomever they like during campaigns; but once a new president is elected, the others often act as a kind of security detail. Thus did Johnson once present Eisenhower with a pair of gold cuff links bearing the Presidential Seal. “You are the only one along
clearly did not think Reagan was in his league.” In the end, Nixon surprised much of the Republican Party by picking Maryland governor Spiro Agnew, someone who would never upstage the real star of the ticket. The battle of Dick and Ron was quickly forgotten in the ensuing fights over the general election campaign. Not many people outside conservative circles took Reagan seriously or imagined that he would run twice more before becoming president. But the Kabuki race between them altered their