Monday, November 5, 2012

The Presidents Club (Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy)

The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy is a comprehensive read into the lives of ex-Presidents upon their departure from the Presidency and into "private" life, from Herbert Hoover through to George W. Bush. Stories are interwoven through the narrative of "the club", ranging from the work that Hoover provided to Harry Truman in providing food to Western Europe to the partnerships between Bill Clinton and both Bush presidencies in dealing with natural disasters abroad and at home.

The writers approach each former President without bias, pulling in details from people who were in the inner circles of various administrations to people impacted by the work these men did in public service. Each story wove into the connections, rivalries, and friendships that these men developed, as well as their willingness to protect office over party in many instances. Their wisdom in various arenas (Nixon with foreign policy, Hoover with commerce and facilitating action, Carter in negotiation) aided...and sometimes hindered administrations, but the wisdom provided helped shape each successive administration and build new legacies from prior administrations. In some cases, unlikely friendships developed and in others, friendly rivalries intensified.

The work is not brief -- coming in at 530 pages -- but the book serves as a great story and thorough read for the history buff and for the political junkie. Largely true to chronological order, The Presidents Club is a solid, thorough historical account that had me laughing at some points, shaking my head in others, and kept me intrigued to know more about the people that held the office and how they lived their lives once they left the Presidency.  Gibbs and Duffy have taken care to ensure that stories are well-cited, resourced, and lacking the bias that sometimes can cloud a good political book.