One of my favorite books I’ve ever read is The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. I promise I am not making any money from them…although I’ll gladly accept some if they want to donate. Anyways, if you haven’t read it, it talks about the relationships between former presidents and sitting presidents. It’s a fantastic book that I highly recommend everyone picking it up and giving it a read. It gives a LOT of really great stories that you can share with your friends if you want to sound smart.
One of my favorite stories from the book deals with Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan. After Clinton won the 1992 election, and just before taking office, he met with former president Ronald Reagan. They talked for a while and Clinton asked him if he had any advice for him. One piece of advice…learn to salute better. They then stood and Reagan taught him how to properly salute. After their meeting, Reagan gave Clinton a bag of red, white, and blue jelly beans which Clinton never ate and kept in his office during his entire 8 years as president.
In 2000, when President Bush was elected, he held a similar meeting with Bill Clinton and he asked Clinton how he became such a good speaker—something Bill was not the best at early in his career. Just as Reagan taught Clinton how to salute, Clinton began to teach Bush the tips and tricks of giving a good speech.
Another interesting story was with President Hoover’s relationships with his successors. After the stock market crashed and the Great Depression hit, Hoover was soundly defeated by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Hoover’s name became a laughing stock (you’ve all heard the stories about Hoovervilles and Hoover-blankets). FDR wanted nothing to do with Hoover and ultimately ignored him for the most part. When Roosevelt died and Truman assumed the presidency, he turned to Hoover and asked for his help with the post-WWII mission of food distribution in Europe. Hoover’s expertise in overseeing this mission helped to save millions of lives and somewhat rebuild his legacy, although it’s still something that is overlooked today.
These are just a few of the stories in the book. I could give plenty more but you get the gist. I told you these for a very specific reason. During his speech at the convention this week, President Obama made an excellent point about being prepared for the presidency. To paraphrase, he said that until you’ve actually sat in that chair, you can never truly know what to expect. I’m sure it can be a pretty daunting feeling to know that you are now responsible for an entire country. There’s almost no one that knows that feeling. The only people that know are your predecessors…those who have also sat where you are sitting. So for many incoming presidents, they lean on these former presidents regardless of party affiliation. Truman was a Democrat, and used a Republican in Hoover for one of his most important tasks. Clinton had a very close relationship with two Republicans in Reagan and Nixon. George W. Bush relied on help from a Democrat in Clinton and the two formed a very close friendship. They worked together on relief efforts in Haiti when they were both out of office.
So regardless of party affiliation, being a part of the president’s club is a very unique opportunity. And that brings us to this year’s election. If there is anyone that knows the type of person that should sit in the Oval Office, it is these men. We currently have five living presidents: Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. This week, we heard from three of them at the DNC: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. They all came out in strong support for Hillary Clinton. Yes, I know these were all Democrats and most will probably just say they were fulfilling their party duty, but is that the case? The two ex-presidents who have been relatively silent on the race has been the two ex-Republican presidents. Both men skipped the RNC when Donald Trump was being nominated. But why?
Many will say that they are mad because Trump made fun of Jeb, but I can’t really see them being that spiteful. After all, they understand politics and how it gets ugly occasionally. In a recent meeting with some of his former staffers, George W. Bush claimed that he was afraid that he would be the last Republican president. I wouldn’t exactly call that a glaring endorsement for the Trump campaign. But EVEN IF the two are angry at Trump over his comments about Jeb, what about at least support from former Republican Presidential nominees? John McCain? Nope. No endorsement and he skipped the RNC. Mitt Romney? Absolutely not. He has been a huge critic of Trump’s and even called for a third party candidate to run against him to ensure he didn’t win. The only living Republican presidential nominee to come out in support of Trump was Bob Dole.
On the flip side, I mentioned the three ex-Democratic presidents all speaking at the convention (Carter through video because of his health issues). But also former Democratic nominees? Dukakis was there and spoke. Al Gore tweeted and said he hated to miss the convention but wanted everyone to know his support of her. John Kerry is the sitting Secretary of Defense and did not speak at the convention and is the only living Democratic presidential nominee that did not offer at least a statement during this week (that I have seen). He did issue an endorsement for her after she clinched enough delegates to win the nomination a few months ago.
So maybe this is all partisan…maybe it’s a bit of irony; who knows. What is clear is that Donald Trump has really isolated himself from a lot of people. If the current members of the President’s Club were excited about Donald Trump becoming the next member, you’d think they would come out and support him. Instead, they are remaining silent. And as the saying goes: something silence speaks volumes.