I just finished reading one of the most interesting books I have read in years, its called The Presidents Club written by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, I am sure its available everywhere, and I was able to read it on my iPad which is always a plus for me. The book went through many examples of relationships between sitting presidents and past presidents. So much of that info was extremely interesting to me, because its something the public doesn’t know about. One of the main theme, if not the main theme itself, is that each president knows the office is more important than the individual. In other words, keeping the position of the President of the United States of America as the most respected and powerful position in the world makes the members of this group put aside their differences in ways that help the current president to succeed. They almost never criticize a sitting president, and they are always there to help, give advice, what ever it takes for the current occupant of the Oval Office to succeed.
When reading this book I couldn’t help but think what a great thing this is and also why don’t the House and Congress do the same? Why isn’t success for people in office everyones top priority? I know thats fantasyland now, but there is so much to learn from this book. Most of all loyalty, wanting whats best for the office of the President and whats best for the American people.
There were so many different examples of the behind the scenes help presidents received from their predecessors. One example is how President Kennedy reached out to former President Eisenhower about the Cuban Missile Crisis; Ike and Kennedy never liked each other and never had a good relationship. But in time of need Kennedy reached out to Ike, a former General who brought victory in WW2, for his advice and what he thought of Kennedy’s plans. In todays climate this seems impossible to even fathom, but it did happen. The book also goes into great detail about Lyndon Johnson, the Vietnam War, Nixon and the 1968 election.
There are so many interesting examples its hard to narrow down to just a few for this posting. One of the ones that struck me most was Nixon; first in that he had been advising Reagan since the early 1960’s before either man became president. Just before the 1968 presidential election LBJ had worked out a peace deal with the major players in the Vietnam war; turns out Nixon had a mole that was able to sabotage the peace deal, thus guaranteeing Nixon would become president rather than Hubert Humphrey. This was a treasonous act on Nixon’s part and he was forever afraid of LBJ for knowing the truth. LBJ did not publicly accuse Nixon of this, however.
What was also interesting to me about Nixon is the substantially influential role he had behind the scenes until the time of his death. After leaving office in disgrace Nixon did try to untarnish his image, but what he mostly did was advice Reagan, Bush and Clinton. Nixon would send 10 page single spaced memos about his observations and recommendations. Many of these dealing directly with the Cold War; he advised Reagan on many fronts with this. Turns out Nixon thought Ronnie was too soft on the ‘Commies’ But he picked right up with H.W. to advise him and well as Bill Clinton. After Nixon’s death Clinton publicly said losing Nixon was as hard as losing his mother had been. Wouldn’t it be fascinating if Richard Nixon was responsible for most of the policy of the government for the last half/quarter of the 20th century? And no one ever knew it?
There are many other interesting parts of the book; how Ford and Carter broke through their bitter rivalry and dislike of each other to become the best of friends for the rest of their lives; how Clinton called Ford for advice during the Lewinsky episode; and perhaps most famously another bitter rivalry was ended when H.W. and Bubba became very close.
Take away: Every member of Congress should read this book and vow to put their office and whats best for their country as their top priority.