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The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity | [Nancy Gibbs, Michael Duffy]

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.
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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2012 Nancy Gibbs, Michael Duffy (P)2012 Simon & Schuster Audio

What the Critics Say

"This is essential reading for anyone interested in American politics.” (Robert Dallek, best-selling author of An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963)

“Forget Rome’s Curia, Yale’s Skull and Bones and the Bilderbergs - the world’s most exclusive club never numbers more than six. Its rules are inscrutable, and its members box the compass politically and stylistically.... Michael Duffy and Nancy Gibbs have penetrated thick walls of secrecy and decorum to give us the most intimate, revealing, and poignant account of the constitutional fifth wheel that is the ex-presidency. Readers are in for some major surprises, not to mention a history they won’t be able to put down.” (Richard Norton Smith, author of Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation)

The Presidents Club is magnetically readable, bursting with new information and behind-the-scenes details. It is also an important contribution to history, illuminating the event-making private relationships among our ex-Presidents and why we should do a far better job of drawing on their skills and experience.” (Michael Beschloss, best-selling author of The Conquerers)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Elicka Boone, NC, United States 06-18-12
    Elicka Boone, NC, United States 06-18-12 Member Since 2010

    Non-fiction, fiction--I read widely. Except bodice rippers. I'd rather pull my own eyelashes out than read romance. Avid, happy reader.

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    "Inflection of narrator really annoying"

    I've read MANY historical accounts of the presidencies covered in this book, and did notice a few areas where the accounts here didn't quite jive with others (considered to be authoritative), but I can't speak to the bias that I noticed in other reviews, as I'm not far enough along to have encountered them. I certainly don't see it thus far, and I'm up to the account of Nixon's campaign. I've never written a review prior to finishing a book, but this one made me want to due to the narration. Perhaps it will help someout out.

    Argghh! I'm truly surprised that more folks haven't mentioned this, but Bob Walter's inflection and pacing is reminiscent of a really bad John Wayne impression. I'm not terribly picky about narration in general, and thus didn't listen to the sample. I wish I had. I find his pacing, inflection, and emphasis bizarre, and very distracting and annoying. This experience . . . has . . . taught me that I . . . should definitely . . . listen to the . . sample before I . . . purchase . . . a book. I'll certainly avoid him in the future, as it makes the book a tedious listen for me.

    Finally, at least thus far, the authors didn't seem to have enough material to warrant a book on the specific topic of the relationships between past and present presidents, and spend a considerable amount of time away from that angle. I understand the need to provide historical context to readers, certainly, but much of the time it feels like the 'presidents club' is more of an aside. I was hoping for more on this specific topic, as it's interesting, and usually an aside in more focused biographies of presidents. However, this doesn't provide much to previous works in this respect. As such, it kind of feels like more of a marketing angle to justify a history of the presidencies of Truman through the present. If you haven't read a lot of political history, that might be more interesting to you, but if you've read a lot, it's mostly a re-hash with a little more emphasis on the presidential relationships.

    Just to put this review in context, it is the worst I've ever given, by far--and again, mostly due to the narration, and to a lesser extent, to the paltry amount of new information regarding the presidential relationships.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    loix Pittsburgh, PA, United States 04-25-12
    loix Pittsburgh, PA, United States 04-25-12 Member Since 2004
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    "Engaging subject, but fact-checking needed"

    I found both the subject and the narrative--discussing the relationship of two presidents at a time--engaging. But two things about the book left me unsettled. The first is a tiny factual error about the origin of the name for the Roosevelt Room; if a foreigner who has watched one season of The West Wing can spot an error, odds are that there might be more lurking. The second unpleasant surprise was the almost complete reversal of my feelings towards many of the presidents discussed in this book; I could not shake the uneasiness that the authors seemed overly critical of or a little too eager to pounce on the merest character flaws of Carter, Clinton and even Obama (or at least his staff), while the two Bushes and Ford came out as hopelessly misunderstood men who really were decent men with the best of intentions. The only unsurprising point was how big a crook Nixon really was. I hope more discerning reviewers will shed light on whether the narrative was at all biased. It would be a terrible shame if the authors let their opinions taint the little-known stories about this exclusive club.

    25 of 28 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Betty 04-30-12
    Betty 04-30-12 Listener Since 2007

    Elderly (1932), retired university professor, degrees in engineering and economics.

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    "FASCINATING ELECTION YEAR BOOK!"


    If we include The Drift (Rachel Maddow) and Game Change (John Halperin and John Heilmann) with this book, we have an unintended Voter Trilogy for the 2012 elections! I recommend all three for their insight, research and even-handed analysis of our politics in the last decades of the 20th and early years of the 21st centuries. Compelling listening.

    The President’s Club is probably the most exclusive club ever formed. The prerequisite is to be a former PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. It has a variable membership as elections and deaths occur. The actions and contributions of these ex-presidents fascinate and surprise the reader (listener}. In some cases their post-presidential contributions were more significant than those made during their tenure in office.

    Gibbs and Duffy examine crises faced and lessons learned during their respective presidencies that led to redeeming contributions after they became members of the President’s Club. How did President (General) Eisenhower relate to JFK? To whom did LBJ turn for help about foreign affairs after the assassination? How was Richard Nixon accepted after his resignation? How helpful was The Club when Gerald Ford was catapulted into the presidency after the resignation of Nixon?

    These are just a few questions explored. Jimmy Carter and subsequent presidents are all included. Sometimes you will laugh; sometimes you will swear like a sailor. The book is interesting, revealing and infuriating. A great listen!

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laurie Mesa, AZ, United States 05-31-12
    Laurie Mesa, AZ, United States 05-31-12

    mom of 2 in az

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    "Would have preferred a different narrator"
    Would you try another book from Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy and/or Bob Walter?

    I would try another book from the authors and would avoid the narrator.


    Would you be willing to try another one of Bob Walter’s performances?

    It was a bit forced. I couldn't connect with him. I felt at times that he was unsuccessfully trying to do impressions of some of the presidents.


    Any additional comments?

    I loved the history I learned. As we got to the more current presidents, I could recall many of the events mentioned in the book. It was great to hear some background. I reinforced some opinions I held and changed others. That's a good book. A book that can make you reconsider your previously held beliefs is a powerful tool.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. PAI Alhambra, CA United States 05-23-12
    P. PAI Alhambra, CA United States 05-23-12 Member Since 2004
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    "Great Story Telling From the Authors, Good Listeni"

    The authors told the stories for the US presidents from Truman all the way till now. This book distilled sixty more years history into slightly over 20 hours, while leaving you some very vivid images of each president. You can see the changes of each former president, and stories are told about the frustration of current presidents with fromer presidents. A great listening!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim Panguitch, Utah, United States 05-03-12
    Jim Panguitch, Utah, United States 05-03-12 Member Since 2012
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    "This book just "blew me away""
    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Richard Nixon was my favorite character because of the influence he had on all the presidents after his resignation up to and including Bill Clinton.


    Which character – as performed by Bob Walter – was your favorite?

    He was outstanding portraying all the characters.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I found myself laughing out loud and weeping all through the book. It just drove my two dogs crazy.


    Any additional comments?

    I am 66 years old, have always been interested in politics, and a news junkie but nothing you thought you ever knew can prepare you for the revelations in this book. It's one of those "I didn't even know that I didn't know" kind of things. "The President's Club" will blow your mind and you will come away with a new respect for the President be they Republican or Democrat.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Aaron Salt Lake City, Utah, United States 07-05-12
    Aaron Salt Lake City, Utah, United States 07-05-12 Member Since 2009

    Charger

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    "Content OK - Narrator is TERRIBLE"

    Good book overall. The first several sections with Truman and Eishenhower are more political history than relationships within "the club" but this improves as the book goes on and there's more info about the actual relationships and interaction of Presidents.

    The biggest downfall of this audiobook is the narrator. He speaks in the same exact cadence over and over again. It doesn't matter if he's quoting someone or simply narrating, the cadence, emphasis, etc. is irritatingly repetitive. I could actually give you a voice example mocking his style if I could upload a audio sample here...It's would be comical if it weren't so repetitive. He also does almost zero voice characterizations (acting) so unless you're paying close attention, sometimes you don't know if a President is speaking or a staffer or another political figure. The only exception I noticed was in characterizing LBJ's voice with a bit of a Texan accent, but it's very slight.

    Sadly, it's REALLY hard to listen beyond the narrator. He's so distracting that it's hard to listen for very long.

    This is one endorsement that I would NOT recommend the audio version, but would recommend the actual book (read it yourself).

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. STEUBENVILLE, OH, United States 06-18-12
    L. STEUBENVILLE, OH, United States 06-18-12 Member Since 2011
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    "I didn't want it to end"
    Would you listen to The Presidents Club again? Why?

    I would listen to it again, probably after a few years. After more history is revealed about the Presidents, would be interesting to go back and compare what is in the book to things that have come to light since its publication.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Presidents Club?

    Three ex-presidents traveling to Egypt for the funeral of Anwar Sadat. Some of it was funny because of the awkwardness but in the end Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter became sort of friends.


    Any additional comments?

    I found out so many things I never knew. I never knew that Harry Truman barely had any money, what a sensitive spirit Lyndon Johnson had or how close Bill Clinton is to the Bush family. There are many memorable moments in the book, many very touching, even about Richard Nixon.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    george d. calkins 04-22-12 Member Since 2011

    i am a mediator/private judge. i have two grown children and four grand children. i read biography, history, detective fiction and suspense books in great numbers. i have listened to 1,500 books here on audible.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "brings the fraternity to life"
    What made the experience of listening to The Presidents Club the most enjoyable?

    the many anecdotes and insights re presidential relationships kept me from stopping until i was finished with book


    What other book might you compare The Presidents Club to and why?

    the books about washington,adams and jefferson, interacting


    Which scene was your favorite?

    the work of Hoover with Peron and the grain deal for eastern europe.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    it sometimes brought me joy that these personages could let politics and prior disagreements go and work together for the common good and for their growing friendshipas


    Any additional comments?

    it was well read

    6 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Toni Cathedral City, CA, United States 04-25-12
    Toni Cathedral City, CA, United States 04-25-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Being One of the Superpowerful"

    This was fascinating: A look into the interpersonal aspects of being, or having been, one of the most powerful people in the world.

    The book covers Hoover through Obama, limiting the subject to interactions between the members. I found lots of insight into the persons, as opposed to the office. I've often thought that anybody who wanted the job of POTUS should automatically be disqualified from it on the basis if arrogance. But obviously, somebody has to do it. It's a job of superhuman requirements, being struggled with by people who are all too human.

    I couldn't put this down, so I read it all too quick. I'll give it another listen and add more later.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
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  • takecon
    Glasgow
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "The Presidents Club"

    The book provided a fascinating insight to the sheer pressure that any US President is under every day of their Presidency. It highlights that the 'buck' does stop at the President's desk and the human travel this causes. It is apparent that no one other than a former President actually understands the pressure to make life or death decisions impacting on hundred of thousands of people if not millions. The book reveal how serving President seek out the advice of their predecessors who are happy to give it. It is clear that it is a job beyond the capabilities of most normal human beings however the existence of 'The Club' has greatly assisted the sitting President and perhaps changed the course of history. To finish the book provided an insight into the way the US political system operate, the frustration and achievements of sitting Presidents and the fascinating relationships between former Presidents. Many of these relationships were/ are very surprising.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Olivier
    thouare sur loire, France
    9/4/12
    Overall
    "Seven Decades Of Behind-The-Scenes History"

    This book tells the stories of the behind-the-scenes relationships between all post-WWII presidents, from Truman to Obama (plus Herbert Hoover).

    For anyone interested in history, this will be a sinful treat. For those less interested in history, it will still be a great source of juicy historical tidbits, which at the very least will shed a new light on the chasm between presidents' public postures and their behind the scenes attitudes.

    The book is broken-down into presidential pairs, with almost never more than 2 presidents being covered in one chapter, and the format works really well, a tribute to the author's skill in organizing the flow of the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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