Tom's Reviews > The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity

The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs
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's review
Aug 15, 12

really liked it
bookshelves: biography, non-fiction, history
Recommended to Tom by: Moira
Recommended for: DIck Freeman
Read from August 13 to 15, 2012

This book was recommended to me by Moira. It is a useful study in how to, and how not to, behave when leaving an administrative position.
A great book to read in these times leading up to what is bound to be a tumultuous election. The authors explore the relationship between past and sitting presidents beginning with Hoover /Truman up to Obama/Bush/Clinton. My perspective on each of them changed:
Truman-I had read McCullough’s biography a couple of years ago. It was interesting to read of his close relationship to Hoover.
Eisenhower-some shortcomings that were new to me.
Kennedy-his ‘halo’ diminished in my view, again.
Johnson-a ‘domestic’ president at a time of upheaval in Southeast Asia, then over his head; ultimately someone I felt pity for.
Nixon-more to his tricks than I was previously aware of. His undermining of the Paris peace talks intended to increase his chances of election, cost many lives (both American and Vietnamese), putting his egoistic needs ahead of the country. Maybe a bit better as a past president.
Carter-nothing much to admire.
Reagan-a Nixon ‘puppet’ on foreign affairs.
Ford-much to admire here.
Bush I-admirable in many ways.
Clinton-a few redeeming features.
Bush II-interesting relationship with his father.

What comes across is that what one candidate says about another in the thick of election politics matter little once one is in the oval office and the other is a past president. There is, usually, a self -imposed reluctance to criticize the incumbent . A general desire to continue to be of use in whatever way possible makes the pool of past-presidents invaluable to a sitting President.
Those driven primarily by ideology, and self-righteousness can be very dangerous (e.g. Carter). Something to remember in this age of sharp partisan politics. Those who served with convictions, but understood the need to compromise succeeded the best.

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