Book Rec: The Presidents Club

61iyNBdczoLI’ve been reading through the biographies of our presidents and so far have been enjoying getting to know them. It’s interesting to learn about their accomplishments, what drove them toward their failures, and how history has decided to label them.

But there’s one thing that their biographies tend to overlook.

We may learn about each man’s upbringing, his habits, his fierce run for the top job, what made him tick, etc. But even the most in-depth biography touches very little on the behind the scenes story of how each president interacted with one another before and after their arduous campaign battles against one another.

The Presidents Club by Nany Gibbs and Michael Duffy undertakes this task, with every post-WWII president (beginning with Truman and Hoover).

The wonder of this book is in the telling of how unlikely friendships – and rivalries – formed because of stark differences of ideology and running the White House.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is toward the end when we learn about the unforeseen friendship between Clinton and both Bushes, the iconic polar opposites in the political arena.

A colleague of mine a few years back became one of my very good friends, even though we had completely different political views – he a Carter supporter, and me a Bush man. Thing is, we never had a fight or argument. We explained our views and we listened to the other with respect and understanding – understanding that we each want what’s best for our families and the country. But, as he often said, we just have different ways of getting there.

Here is an eye-opening excerpt from The Presidents Club that I think every American can learn from.

“…George W. Bush did me one of the great favors of my life,” Clinton [said]. “He asked me not once, but twice, to work with his father. We took 7 trips together. This man who’d I’d always liked and respected and run against … I literally came to love … and I realize all over again how much energy we waste fighting with each other over things that don’t matter … He can virtually do no wrong in my eyes …” 

The Bush family paid Clinton back at this particular gathering, “conferring on him the highest possible honor: a family nickname … Laura Bush asked all twenty-seven Bushes in attendance to gather for a family picture … Clinton [was] standing quietly off to the side backstage, watching the big family take its places for a photographer when the call came from Neil Bush rang out: “Bill, Bill! Brother of Another Mother! Get in here!” 

And so he did, taking his place in the back row, near some grandchildren. “Yeah,” Clinton mused, recalling the moment a few months later, “the family’s black sheep. Every family’s got one.”

Even in this party-split nation we can still live as one country, in unity and love for one another.


Published by Andrew Toy

Writer when I'm not being a husband or dad. So mostly just a husband and dad.

21 thoughts on “Book Rec: The Presidents Club

  1. Wish I could get detailed information about my Presidents too. Read about some of yours. They’re a bunch of cool and great people. Would love to meet a President someday.
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  2. Well… I don’t think the alliance between Clinton and the Bush dynasty have helped the country. Maybe it was good for their personal love affair and their personal economic bottom lines, but they have not demonstrated how to get along as much as they have displayed their ownership of or profiteering on us. As I watch Jenna Bush Haggar (sp?) interview her father and grandfather about retirement as if none of the wars they perpetuated outweigh their painting exhibits and birthday parties, as they continue to adore Bill and diss Hilary… as they all own shares in Monsanto which has ruined to seed and how they all outsource via Walmart, how is this book not a fantasy? I do know of the mutual humanitarian projects between Bill and Papa Bush, but most of these have an economic sweatshop or PR advantage for them and is not really coming from a place of all paths leading to the one. Our government system is wildly out of whack. Clinton and the Bushes assisted the failing of our checks and balances. Watching Bill, one finds him likable and can admire his skill in handling a crowd. And in the cult of personality world the collective seems to be swayed by that charm.
    Thanks for the follow on my blog, by the way. I stopped by yours to see what you were writing. I’m not sure how much common ground we will find politically or spiritually, but I appreciate the forum and the respectful dialogue you’d like to achieve. Peace to you and your family. 🙂


    1. True, our government, nor its system, is perfect, but it’s the best in the world. There will be many failures and mishaps within it, which this book doesn’t overlook, but in the end, what really matters is that we are all American and we all want what’s best for this country. This book actually helped me to see the good (if little) in the presidents I dislike, and therefore, have a better outlook on our country as a whole.


      1. Thank you for your reply. I agree the vision of our founders, (the declaration of independence, the bill of rights, and the system of checks and balances, separation between church and state primarily) has been the best chance at “the best government” in the world, for Democracy… “we the people”…and I certainly had more advantages as a woman being born in my time during American history… I’m grateful to and for the suffragists, civil rights activists, women’s lib movement, etc. which helped pave the way and forward the country after the decimation of Native Americans, and our acquired wealth via slavery… for example.
        I don’t dislike our country. I just see the system as rigged and broken. Maybe watching Bill Moyers my whole life helped me see where we’ve derailed several thousand times. Like Mr. Moyers, I don’t want to give up on our country, so I appreciate discussions like these. For me it isn’t about whether I personally like a particular president anymore. They have limited power. Business is running things. Banks and apparently Clint Eastwood, who assured his republican party not to worry if Mitt Romney won or Obama, essentially, because He “owns us”. His talking to the empty chair made an ass out of Eastwood in many democrats view, but essentially he was showing the presidency might as well be an empty chair. He was talking about big money. Golf courses with fertilizer that has been banned everywhere else in the world but that is allowed for golf courses because Clint bought it. Hollywood, crosses over into corporate media which is the face of journalism today (see Jenna Bush Haggar continue to interview her family on NBC) and the internet monopolies and mergers from book publishing to fast speed and information access is not a democracy. Nepotism is a word that comes to mind. Capitalism isn’t really compatible in a democracy once the wealth disparity is as it exists today. Health insurance companies are not about health care. They are business.
        I’m glad you see the hope you do in our government (which is us, if we remember to take action in our own local politics, and not just vote for someone else to do all the work). We need your optimism. But we also need vision. Our energy consumption and resulting pollution proves we are not sustainable leaders in the world, but rather greedy and powerful ones.
        Thanks again for giving me a chance to express myself. Maybe I will get the book you’ve recommended at the library soon, to see what it’s like. Peace to you. 🙂


  3. It’s an interesting subject for a book. Which might do the negative political climate some good, for people to see that 2 warring sides can not only get along but respect each other too.


  4. As an Irishwoman reading your post I was struck by how intrigued we are by all things American. We see America as leading the way, and after reading your post about the Presidents, I now have another book to add to my reading list.
    Thank you for checking out our site,


  5. Thank you for this review. I believe that you have given me the idea for my daughter’s Christmas present. This is exactly the sort of thing she loves to read, and I think I will get two copies so I can have one two.


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