The Presidents Club
Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity
The Presidents Club was born at Eisenhower’s inauguration when Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover first conceived the idea. Over the years that followed—and to this day—the presidents relied on, misunderstood, sabotaged, and formed alliances with one another that changed history. The world’s most exclusive fraternity is a complicated place: its members are bound forever because they sat in the Oval Office and know its secrets, yet they are immortal rivals for history’s favor.
Some presidents needed their predecessors to keep their secrets; others needed them to disappear. Most just needed help getting the job done. Truman enlisted Hoover to help him save Europe; Kennedy turned to Ike on Cuba; Nixon sought Johnson’s advice on getting reelected, but then tried to blackmail him; Ford and Carter couldn’t stand each other until they saw what they had in common; Reagan and Clinton relied on Nixon as an off-the-books emissary to Russia; Bush put Clinton and his father to work and they became like father and son; and Obama and Clinton became quiet rivals for the same crown.
Journalists and presidential historians Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy unravel the secret compacts, the shared scars, and the private cease-fires from Hoover to Obama. The Presidents Club will change the way we think about the presidency, for the club itself is an instrument of presidential power.
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The Presidents Club
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So you’ve come to talk about my predecessors.” Bill Clinton greets us in his Harlem office, looking thin, sounding thin, his voice a scrape of welcome at the end of a long day.
It is late, it is dark, pouring rain outside, so beyond the wall of windows the city is a splash of watery lights and street noise. But inside, past the two armed agents, behind the electronic locks, the sanctuary is warm wood and deep carpet, a collector’s vault. A painting of Churchill watches from the west wall; a stuffed Kermit the Frog rests on a shelf, while a hunk of an old voting machine, with names...see more
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Reading Group Guide
Backroom deals, secret alliances, bitter rivalries—these are just a few of the facets of what is perhaps the most important fraternity in American History. Bound by experience and the singular weight of holding supreme office, this club of former and current presidents has, in one way or another, acted as a secret and impactful instrument on the course of American—and world—history. Time editors Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy put these complicated relationships, from Truman and Hoover’s truce at Eisenhower’s inauguration to Clinton and Obama’s touchy modern relationship, under the ultimate lens, revealing the ways in which presidents in office must rely, sometimes against their will, on those few men who have sat in the same seat.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1.List and discuss the most unlikely relationships in the Presidents Club. Who reached farthest across the aisle? Why are former and current presidents so likely to work together, even when their policies and personalities differ so d see more