Friday, December 28, 2012

Nobody Knows The Trouble He's Seen

With the forty-first president of the United States George H.W. Bush languishing in the hospital, you might be surprised to know that one of the people most upset about this development is the forty-second president, Bill Clinton.  If you remember the two of them dueling for the Oval Office in 1992, you might think they wouldn’t have a good word to say about the other.  You would be wrong.

I recall a number of years ago being shocked to hear that Jimmy Carter counted his predecessor, Gerald Ford among his closest friends.  They say politics makes strange bedfellows, and whoever “they” are, they’re right on the money, as you will find in “The President’s Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity”.   This 641-page volume, written by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, was the best book I read all year.  It was at once about both politics and history, informative and anecdotal, serious and dishy.

 These relationships between former presidents, as well as those between sitting and former chief executives are chronicled back to the time of Truman’s elevation to the top spot.  They could have gone back much further.  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, our second and third presidents, were best friends when their terms of office expired, though they had rarely agreed on anything as statesmen.  In fact, it has been recorded that John Adams last words from his death bed were, “Jefferson lives!”  He may or may not have been correct;  Jefferson died that same day, July 4, 1826.

The easiest explanation also happens to be the correct one-no one else could ever understand what you faced as the most powerful man on the planet except for a person who’d occupied that chair.  It is a distinction that crosses party lines and is bigger than any ideology.  Yet despite their similarities, this council of wise men was sometimes a godsend and in other instances an albatross for a sitting president.

Truman, thrust into the presidency by the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, was thought by many to be woefully unqualified.  He may have shared these thoughts, as he reached out to the only living alumnus, Herbert Hoover, who had been living in virtual exile, blamed for many of the circumstances surrounding The Great Depression.  Hoover had been instrumental in feeding war-torn Europe after World War I, and Truman knew that winning the peace would be at least as hard as winning the second World War.  With infant mortality soaring, Hoover, with some reservations, answered the call of the Commander in Chief.  Truman was later the driving force in restoring Hoover’s name to the dam that had been his namesake, having been churlishly re-titled Cooley Dam under F.D.R.

Authors Gibbs and Duffy take you inside the secret briefings Eisenhower received from Kennedy as world peace teetered on a precipice during the Cuban Missile Crisis;  they show you that Nixon was at turns a brilliant tactician and an outright son of a bitch years before his perfidy at the Watergate Hotel.  Shockingly, it was Nixon who was the first president in nearly a century without an ex-president to consult after the back-to-back deaths of both Truman and Lyndon Johnson.  One wonders if he would have listened to the advice of these men when he needed it most…you could also wonder if they would have taken his phone call.  The book ends about mid-way through Barack Obama’s first term, as our current president reached out to both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.  Both answered the call. 

I would like to think that they would re-issue this book about once a decade, updated to include collaborations between leaders of today and tomorrow.  It would be nice to think that now that Obama has broken the race barrier, perhaps The Ex-President’s Club might have to make their clubhouse a co-ed establishment. 

Please consider these other items written and/or performed by Marc Holland:

Live performances at:

Three plays co-written with Mike Davis-

Crenshaw Family Reunion 

Beauty and the Deceased

Night of the Livid Dad (one-act)

One play co-written with Kathy Holland-

Warren’s Peace

Are  all available at:

Coming Soon: A new one-act co-written with Kathy Holland-


Will be available at:

Novels under the pen name Quentin Tippler-

Hats Off For Homicide

And Coming Soon:

On the QT: The Collected Short Fiction of Quentin Tippler

Are for sale at:

Novels under the pen name Carl Stafford-

Son of Mann

And Coming in 2014:

Grandsons of Mann

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