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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Presidential candidates often run on a platform of distancing themselves from the man in office, attacking his policies and actions, promising to do things differently, better. Or they deliberately align themselves with him, painting themselves as his natural successor, his protege, only to begin to edge themselves out from the long shadow cast once in office. But one thing, Gibbs and Duffy argue, is common to all of those who become President themselves - they find it a lonely, isolating position, and only a few other men can really understand what they're going through - and it's the very same men they have been deliberately avoiding or cultivating.

Relationships with everyone change once a man becomes President - with his family, friends, staff, voters - and perhaps most particularly of all with the other men who bear the title of President. This book is a truly fascinating read, charting the relationships between all of the Presidents since Truman and Hoover first formed what they jokingly called 'the Presidents Club'. Cooperation, competition and consolation form the hallmark of this Club, and it's interesting to see how different presidents have relied on their predecessors in different ways - to lend political support, to influence voters, to give advice and guidance, to take on tricky extra-governmental missions, to serve as a sounding board, or even just as a friend who has been there.

Some Presidents could let go, content to fade into the background and serve when called upon, like Eisenhower, Truman, Ford, or the Bushes. Others were bored and restless, inserting themselves into events on the world stage whether they were wanted or not, like Carter and Clinton. Others were paranoid and anguished in their retirement, obsessed with how history would see them, unable and unwilling to let go, like Johnson. And then there was Nixon...

I really enjoyed this book, enjoyed reading about a side of Presidential life that is rarely written about. Much time, paper and ink is devoted to how a man becomes President and what he does whilst in office, but to paraphrase Shakespeare, for some Presidents, nothing became their Presidency like the leaving of it. That transition and how they handle being an ex-President is often more revealing than anything else, about how a man whose life has been devoted to politics handles being on the other side of the most powerful office in the world.

Having read this book I came away with a new respect for Truman, Ford and both Bushes, and a little less for Eisenhower, Carter and Reagan - and let's face it, the portrayal of Nixon only confirmed much of what history thinks of him already. Definitely worth a read for anyone interested in Presidential history!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 30 June 2014
This book wonderfully describes the relationships between the sitting and the former - never really retired - presidents. It is interesting to see that the most fruitful relationships do occur when they both are at the opposite of the political spectrum.
The most striking example is the alliance forged after the end of the second world war between Hoover and Truman. The help and the restless travels that Hoover did averted another tragedy in Europe for bringing food and restoring the economies to a functioning state.
Eisenhower and JFK relationship remains also essential since they very much despised each other at begin of their encounter but finally manage to form an almost workable relationship . Eisenhower was proved to be a definitive help and a loyal ally during the Cuban crisis when he advised JFK to pursue and announce the quarantine of Cuba.
The example of Jimmy Carter in this book is also striking, the very fact that he criticizes publicly Clinton's foreign policy decisions labelled him as "black sheep" of the club.
The relationships between Senior Bush and Clinton are also worth to read, notably in the role they both play following the contentious election in 2000 between Al Gore and Junior Bush.
Reagan and Nixon remains a fascinating relationship . It is Reagan whom restated Nixon by seeking his advice during the most dangerous years of the Cold War.

The open question remains with whom 44 will be friend with when his term finishes in 2016 ??
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 August 2014
This is an interesting and well reasearched account of the relationships between each president since Truman with their predecessors right through to Obama and his relationships with Clinton and Bush.

In telling the story of these relationships this book covers pretty much all of the major points of US history since WII in a very readable way. I thouroughly enjoyed this book and learned a great deal - some of which - for example the warm relationships between Bill Clinton and both Bush father and son surprised me a liitle.

Interesting and informative - a very humane account of the pressures of very high office and what it is like to move on from the summit of power
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“The President’s Club” is a fascinating introduction to that exclusive fraternity of men who have served as President of the United States. It is a web in which political rivals unite to protect the office, serve their country and world and and find ways to make themselves useful.

The modern club began when Harry Truman invited Herbert Hoover to undertake the task of food relief to war torn Europe. Although Hoover resented being the scapegoat again in 1948 he was willing to help reorganize the Federal Government under both Truman and Eisenhower.

The relationships have been as diverse as the members and party divisions have largely been left behind. Truman was an irascible character who liked to be remembered, by some but not all of his successors, who did undertake at least one “you-die I fly” mission. Eisenhower was an advisor and confident to Kennedy and Johnson in war and peace. Johnson’s club membership kept him quiet as Nixon adhered more to the Johnson policies than Democrats of his day. Thereafter presidents became helpers and tricksters. Nixon’s continued dalliance in foreign affairs and Carter’s globe-trotting and free-lance diplomacy produced tense moments in the West Wing and, on occasion, accusations of treason. Perhaps the closest and most productive bonding was between the Bushes and the “other brother”, Bill Clinton. President Obama, like his predecessors, has learned to employ the talents of those few who know what it is like to sit behind the desk and make the decisions that change history.

What I found most interesting about this is the non-partisanship of the Club. Truman and Hoover could work together better than Hoover did with Eisenhower or Truman with Kennedy. Ike could be a stern father-figure for Kennedy and a confessor to Johnson, while maintaining a distant relationship with Nixon. Nixon and Reagan would be rivals while Ford was troubled by both. Carter would create havoc for Clinton and Clinton would become good friends with the Bushes.

Authors Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy provide an insight into powerful personalities and their role in governance through the counsel each provides his successors and how recent presidents have learned to use their predecessors. It is a worthwhile read for any student of the modern American Presidency.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 11 September 2013
Another book that was recommended to me. I found it fascinating and it gave me an idea of the way in which the presidency, and afterlife, works Certainly worth a read.
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on 24 September 2013
This is a fascinating insight into the US Presidents from Hoover to Obama and their campaigns for the 'top job and the politics involved. It is interesting to see how devious some were and how helpful others could be to the new President. It is an very exclusive Club and I would certainly recommend this to anyone interested in American Presidents and politics
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Among the precedents that George Washington set was the orderly transition of power from one president to the next. As he handed over the presidency, Washington also became the first former president. He and John Adams became the only two members of an exclusive club--those who know what it means to have the power, privileges, and burdens of an American president. This book is the history of this club and its members. Using examples from the near and distant past, Gibbs and Duffy illustrate three key aspects of the Presidents Club. They are personal relationships, protecting the office of the presidency, and supporting the actions of the current president.

The club is about relationships between the current president and those who have gone before. Serving presidents have the counsel and comfort of others who know where the buck stops and how it feels to shoulder this burden. Former presidents have the opportunity to remain relevant and influence national affairs. Most have accepted a behind-the-scenes role, avoiding the dangers of upstaging the current president. Jimmy Carter could be an exception. Richard Nixon advised a succession of presidents in an admitted campaign to redeem himself from the national embarrassment of Watergate.

The club also protects the office of the presidency. Most former presidents avoid criticizing the current president, exercise restraint in their friendships with foreign leaders, and generally remain in the background. Most presidents have responded by respecting former presidents' decisions and concern for their place in history. "However much presidents may disagree with their predecessors on the value of an ally or the danger of an enemy, they are acutely conscious of being the custodians of American credibility." Gerald Ford was doing more than protecting one man when he pardoned Richard Nixon. Less well known is the candid advice he gave Bill Clinton about the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He did both for the same reason.

Former presidents serve directly by undertaking senior diplomatic missions and performing other leadership and ceremonial roles. Hoover's experience leading our country during the Great Depression made him the ideal choice to organize post-WWII relief efforts in Europe. Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter have undertaken a number of humanitarian missions together, turning a mutual animosity into friendship in the process. The club's history contains many such examples of post-presidential service.

This book documents a range post-presidential behavior. Some of it is dark. "Over five years, across three continents, through two presidential campaigns, Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson played one of the great political chess matches of all time; great because the stakes were so high, the moves so complex-- and because both sides cheated." And both concealed a great deal from the public. The relationship between George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton was more positive and more public. "Through the ages, the Presidents Club has seen its share of rivalries, alliances, even some true friendships. But no relationship is quite like the bond between George H. W. Bush and the man who defeated him in 1992. The connection surprised both men, and astonished many of their longtime aides. Bush would go so far as to suggest more than once that he might be the father that Clinton had always lacked-- a notion that the younger man did not dispute."

I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking greater understanding of American presidents. Readers can learn much from members of one of our hidden institutions. Satisfied readers may also enjoy Rubenzer and Raschingbauer's Personality, Character, and Leadership In The White House: Psychologists Assess the Presidents.
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on 30 April 2014
This is simply an outstanding book. I had a very great pleasure to read it. Very interesting to see how friendships can develop, where you might not think it can be so
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on 8 February 2015
Excellent read, albeit I was quite taken aback by the tremendous insecurities of the leaders of the free world !!
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on 5 March 2015
A very interesting history of the American Presidency since Hoover.
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