A Presidents Day Book Review
"The Presidents Club" book was a wonderful insight in the behind-the-scenes events that took place during the presidencies of Truman through Obama. When I was young, the only president I knew about was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. When Truman succeeded Roosevelt, I was old enough to become acquainted with the activities and leadership of all the succeeding Presidents. I have met all Presidents, but Truman and John F. Kennedy.
This book sparked my memory of most of the events that took place between the Presidents inside and outside the oval office. I learned that Truman embraced Herbert Hoover to help feed the millions of starving Europeans after the Second World War. Hoover had helped feed millions after the First World War. I learned that JFK tried to blame Eisenhower for the Bay of Pigs Fiasco. Ike’s response to his son, John as he left to meet JFK at Camp David was: “I don’t run no bad invasions.” Some of the ex-Presidents craved to be back in the action with access to the Oval Office especially Clinton, Johnson, Carter and Nixon - others faded quietly into the background and only responded when asked, including Reagan, Ford and the Bushes.
I appreciated Eisenhower’s approach to management when he said:
“The only way to guarantee smart decisions was to bring all the responsible parties together and have them fight it out. I don’t believe in bringing them in one at a time and therefore being more impressed by the most recent one you hear. You must get courageous men - men of strong views and let them debate and argue with each other.”
After the Bay of Pigs when Kennedy told Ike that he tried to hide America’s hand in the whole operation and said: “We thought that if it was learned that we were really doing this and not the Cuban rebels themselves, the soviets would be very apt to cause trouble in Berlin.”
To quote the book, Eisenhower shot back that “this was exactly wrong.” Ike said, “The men in the Kremlin admire strength and understand coldly calculated self-interest. If they see us show any weakness that is when they press us the hardest. The second they see us show strength and do something on our own that is when they are very cagey.”
The failure of the Bay of Pigs, Eisenhower predicted will first embolden Khrushchev to do something that he would not otherwise do. And of course he did when he attempted to send missiles to Cuba.
I thought that over the last 50 years this situation has not really changed. The authors conclude that President’s performance in office depends on how they handle foreign affairs. And when Reagan was asked why he really wanted to be President he said, “Ending communism.”
I found the book to be a great lesson in recent history involving our last 12 Presidents.
I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.