>> good evening, everyone. for those i have not had a chance to meet i had the honor of being executive director of the ronald reagan presidential foundation. my pleasure to welcome all of you here. in honor of our men and women in uniform who defend freedom around the world please stand and join me for the pledge of allegiance. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible the griddle with liberty and justice for all. please be seated. as i was preparing for the rival of our special guest today, not that it has anything to do with them but i ran into some
depressing statistics. this introduction will start on a low but it will end on a high. the stats that i ran into were all about who's reading books these days and how often. some of the numbers concern me. don't hold me to them because my source was the internet but they are revealing and if close they are tough to swallow. what they say. one third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives. 42% of college graduates never read another book after college. and 80% of u.s. families did not buy or read a book last year. i have to presume that to the extent these people read they -- their reading habits are confined to 140 character
tweeds, bloggers, web lodz the gazillions the message e-mails and the occasional traffic sign. i think they are missing a lot. i say that because everyone's in a while a team of truly talented writers get together and write a gift for all of us, informs ended the kids and entertains. "the presidents club" is a great book. karen presidential library which happens to be the best in my opinion. i am handing out opinions, having read nancy and mike's book i am sure there will not be a better book with such unique and interesting insights on modern day presidency published for some time. i know this because for me the
book past the i didn't know that tests on every page. i didn't know president clinton had real respect for president nixon. i didn't know there was a presidential clubhouse across from the white house where only former presidents are allowed to stay. i definitely did know it was president reagan who taught president clinton how to salute. these interesting discoveries are just a handful of the scores of such revelations throughout the book. and no wonder. nancy and mike are two of the most talented writers and editors at time magazine who have experience, awards, reputation required to write such a wonderful book. ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming nancy gibbs and michael duffy. [applause]
>> thank you. we could stand. thank you for that ridiculous introduction. i want to start by saying in the five years we spent putting the book together we had many discovery moments where we were learning so much about the presidents as you will learn if you get a chance to read this. things we didn't know. thing that surprised us about the men we covered from reagan through bush and clinton and bush and obama. it was a journey of discovery to say nothing of what we learned about hoover and truman and eisenhower and kennedy and nixon and ford. we too came away thinking i did know that. for us it was a journey that continues because people keep saying things we did know but in
some ways ronald reagan was a bigger part of that story than we would have guessed. we first meet him in 1937. the 40th president. as we dug deeper and deeper into reagan's relationship we had seen fdr. and gone to truman in kansas city when he was a democrat and be taken under the wing of ike when he was beginning his political career as a republican. i was struck by how his relationship was coming up the driveway here and we saw over and over again all the presidents which is a reminder every person sees himself, a bigger club. this is a picture on the cover
-- it has never been published before so we were thrilled to put it on the cover because it takes you into the modern club. it really began a long time before george w. bush and barack obama and bill clinton were there to pick up the torch. it begins in what year would you say? >> it begins when a president is in need of serious health and that is what it takes to bring together such an unlikely partnership as harry truman. and nothing in common personally. and. so he is not one to stand on
ceremony. he did not care herbert hoover had left washington as the most hated man in america with his motorcade being pelted with rotten fruit and exiled completely and whenever anyone suggested to roosevelt that hoover could be usable -- he is a great humanitarian relief effort, roosevelt would say i am not jesus christ. not raising herbert hoover from the dead. harry truman felt differently. was reading the reports that said 1 hundred million people in europe were at risk of starting because the continent was so devastated. knowing how the roosevelt white house would react truman secretly mailed letter to hoover saying would you be willing to come in and talk to me. the two men meet. this picture is taken in may of 1945 and they are suspicious of each other and hoover thinks nothing will come of this.
within a year hoover has been given a plane and sent by truman, 55,000 miles around world. met with 36 prime ministers and seven kings and the pope. his mission was to move food to countries that needed it. in doing so these presidents formed a this partnership that existed how far out side of policy differences and that first laid the foundation, the philosophical premise for what presidents and only presidents can do for one another and this is why when the two men meet one another at eisenhower's inauguration in 1953 hoover greets president truman and says we should form a president's club. truman says great. you be the president and i will
be the secretary. that is the mythological foundation story. except it turns out with each successive presidents to be more and more real so eisenhower in 1957 and senate your congress adds office space and allowance and mailing privileges to the former president lyndon johnson grants secret security and secret service security detail and the use of presidential helicopters and even a projectionist from the white house film library being treated at walter reed and wanted to watch movies in the white house library. richard nixon at the clubhouse, as john mentioned, only one reporter in history has set foot inside of. >> when i asked if i could see the club house which is on jackson square right across the street from the white house i call a press secretary jay carney who used to be my
colleague and said what building? i don't think we know anything about this. in 1969 richard nixon is president and he is getting calls constantly from the hill country of texas where lyndon johnson is going crazy. he has been sent home. his term is done. the decides not to run for reelection and is a little stir crazy. he has been drinking from a fire hose and constantly calling the white house a and i want to come up and i need somewhere to stay. johnson was driving the nixon white house to such distractions that nixon said just get him out. get him a building would get him a place to stay overnight. a young military aid to was a colonel in the air force was named -- got this assignment. that tells you how i found out about this story. they basically take over a rundown town house on markets
where and it is the secret place where presidents can be until today. it has recently been renovated. it is four stories and very nice. the nicest four seasons you have ever stayed in your life. only four people can check in. the thread count on the sheets look like a good jillion. there's a lovely feel on the cover where if you wake up in the morning you are not sure what your old job was you can look down and see president of the united states. this is what one of my famous stories from the club, we all love reading presidential biographies. we read robert caro on lbj and lots of great reagan biographies and they are fun to read and a treasure to curl up with. one thing we want to do is to pull the two men of together to
look at relationships. relationships are really interesting. one of the things we discovered with the reagan library and other archives is these two men were friends and allies long before reagan was president and long after ike was. so much so that in 1965-66 when ronald reagan was just beginning his career as an elected official running for governor of california and the immediately thinking about the presidency, eisenhower in gettysburg is watching it. never met him. reading everything he can. watching him on television. really intrigued by reagan. he likes the optimism. he secretly begins to write letters to reagan's friends to help him cope with the charge that in those days was reagan was too much and extremists to represent the republican party. eisenhower at letters to reagan through cut outs, through middle
men are astonishing. there was a charge he was too close to the john birch society in the 1960s. it kept coming up. eisenhower's script for press conferences, find someone to ask this question and reagan should enter it this way and goes through several iterations through several letters and doing it while dick nixon is trying to beat the gop nomination so you have an interesting prospect of eisenhower helping reagan in 66-67-68 while reagan is stumping for the gop nomination. richard nixon used to be ike's vice president. >> his daughter will marry ike's grandson so you have the full familial -- >> you understand it better. >> this is a bohemian grove.
>> the club picnic. >> talk about this picture. the thing that amazes us is how many relationships go back long before anyone is in politics. >> does anyone know? in the summer of 1967-68, richard nixon on the left would meet herbert hoover at the grove. that summer nixon was giving a big speech about hoover. what he wanted was to meet with reagan because reagan by now is actively seeking the 1968 nomination. beginning to contest some primaries and pick up delegates. has the right wing of the republican party completely won over. people like william f. buckley saying there's no one else to vote for except ronald reagan and here is the connection who thought he would have a stately walk and suddenly having to
contend with the newcomer from california who he had met and just to go back in 1947 when he was a young congressman. they had corresponded through the early 1960s but by this time they are on opposite sides and as we found for about this story these men would be friends and sometimes rivals long before either of them reach the oval office. this is a picture most people probably can't time. right after nixon made his come back after watergate reagan is president and there's a great story between the two ofhem. when nixon becomes president he goes to see ike at walter reed and ike is not well and the old soldier says to nixon as he is giving him advice before he leaves i am yours to command. when reagan becomes president in
1981 on a ten page single spaced letter which nixon would write to reagan, all kinds of advice who to appoint and -- he would say i am yours to command just as i said to him. >> you have these partnerships which as with reagan and nixon, presidents of the same party at a more complicated time getting along with each other than presidents of different parties and we see this up to this day. with president obama and president clinton obviously their relationship got off to a rocky start. the 2008 campaign was bound to be hard on them. the thing that got to clinton most was during that campaign when obama was invoking a model
of presidential greatness was not the last democrat to win the first two terms and the white house. with the last republican, ronald reagan who was the example obama saw as someone who set a clear vision for the country. not a vision obama agree with but what he was captivated by and what he honored was that reagan knew where he wanted to take the country and was able to take a country with him. ..
>> things, of course, that happens, and we see it happen to many presidents. once president obama has been in office for a while, he realizes that doing great big things is not easy. doing anything is not easy, and suddenly the deals and the compromises and the maneuvers and things that they, you know, had dismissed as clintonian, and that was not a compliment, suddenly were looking a lot more understandable. and so we -- and now we see, so now we see in the newest obama campaign video which is directed by an oscar-winning directer and narrated by tom hanks stars appearing four times in 17 minutes, bill clinton. >> we've just been through a republican primary what a lot of -- where a lot of different people running for president were asked what they would l do if they become prd, and they
said -- president, and they said i would do what ronald reagan did. in the 2008 came pain there was a very big -- campaign there was a very big argument about reagan. the second big role they have is consolation. these are men who come out of the race with huge scars. the thing that binds men from different parties and generations in the club after it's all over, that makes them friends when you least isn't -- suspect it is they all come out of office with wealth and burdens and regrets and things they wish they could do over. there are no easy decisions as president, and even the ones that turn out well, they have misbiings. this is a -- misgivings. this is john f. kennedy's first trip to camp david.
it was not a cordial call. this was how many days after the bay of bigs? >> about five days. >> and, literally, eisenhower eisenhower is taking kennedy to the wood shed. he had reorganized the white house around his own way of making decisions, he thought that eisenhower's military hierarchy was not going to work, he wanted a much more personal kind of presidency, and then they had bay bay of pigs and he thought, well, maybe that's not working so well. eisenhower and kennedy meet, this was a, you know, i tried to warn you you can't organize the white house this kind of way, kennedy said, yeah, i'm beginning to figure that out now. and kennedy would learn. he would change the way he did his decision making, and he would become much more like the one ike -- interestingly enough, after they appeared before the cameras, and kennedy really needed this picture as much as he needed the talking to because
it conveyed a sense of authority and command to have the old general there. eisenhower didn't criticize kennedy in public. >> in fact, the following week a whole congressional delegation of republican leaders in congress made a pilgrimage to gettysburg to see eisenhower loaded for bear. they thought, okay, the boom is off the rose, and eisenhower brushed them back, said there should be no witch hunts. it is important that we support our president, especially in foreign policy, especially in dangerous times this not become a partisan issue. >> which is very much like what happened about two or three weeks ago. i just have to bring this up. after george w. bush left office. it's sort of how the club has its protocols and traditions. he disappeared and said the current president deserves my silence, which is a very classy thing to do. obviously, his vice president didn't take that approach. [laughter] but when he finally broke cover
about three weeks ago and made some very gently constructive criticism of obama's tax and energy policy, after a sentence or two he said, but i don't believe our president, our country should criticize our president. so the public role of presidents supporting the current ones continues. this is just a great picture. [laughter] >> so this is an amazing moment, another amazing pairing. we argue about whether eisenhower counts as a texan, but two men who had worked closely together while eisenhower was president and johnson was majority leader. the night of kennedy's assassination johnson is on the phone to eisenhower, and he says, you know, i've needed you for a long time, i need you more than ever now. the next morning eisenhower drives from gettysburg to the white house. he sees kennedy's body lying in state, and then he goes to johnson, and he writes out on a
legal pad, here's what you field to say to a joint session of congress because the world is watching, the country is traumatized, everyone wonders what's going to happen next. and his basic advise is you need to promise to do everything in your power to push through kennedy's agenda. kennedy's agenda which as that point was stalled in congress and wasn't going anywhere, eisenhower's advising johnson to p it through. this is not because eisenhower liked kennedy's agenda, this is because he believed at this moment what the country needed was a message of stability and continue knewty. and throughout johnson's presidency, eisenhower plays this extraordinary off-camera role where johnson will call him p and say can you make up some cover story for why you need to be in washington? i don't want everyone to think it's an emergency, so just come up with some reason why you need to be here. to the point that there were meetings that in the white house about vietnam that eisenhower
ran. and, you know, johnson like attended, but eisenhower ran the meeting, it was extraordinary. and at one point jobson says to him -- johnson says to him, you know, you're the best chief of staff i've got. [laughter] >> it's really amazing. and my favorite detail from that is johnson actually once was so obsessed with ike that he had his staff find out every time he'd ever met him, attended a reception with him just so he could have physical relationship with the man who was then the master. this is from a chapter i call three men and a funeral. [laughter] which is when reagan sent these three guys to the funeral of anwar sadat, october 1981, on a version of the plane just like the one in the other room. one aircraft before that, 26,000, i think. none of these guys liked each other.
there was not a lot of love lost between either of them, and you can understand why. but on the way back nixon peels off on his own secret mission, naturally, and carter and ford who fought like ferrets in 1976 are now alone on the plane, nixon is gone, haig is gone and kissinger is gone -- it's a weird planeload -- and they become friends. [laughter] they realize they have something in common. they both need to raise money on their libraries, they realize that they are both sort of men of faith, they both realize that they were todayed out of office a little bit -- tossed out of office a little bit before they liked. today looked around the club, and they saw nixon and knew reagan was president, and they thought we might be stronger together than we we are apart. so the next 25 years they do 24 or 25 different projects on budgets, deficits, arms control, on middle east politics. they joined forces.
they wrote a book together. they went overseas about 15 times togethe they would promise by 1985 to give the eulogy of the other depending on who died first. [laughter] which is really a measure of friendship. and so when ford did pass in 2006, there were jimmy carter and rosalynn carter in the front row in tears, men who had fought very heavily in 1976. the club, it's like any fraternity, but the bonds are really special. do you want to take this one? >> you call in the beauty and the beast slide. [laughter] >> it's more like the bloody movie hollywood can never make. >> so, you know, when clinton takes office after the 1992 election, something happens that had only happened once before in american history. there were five living former presidents, and they all want his attention in varying drees or another, but no one more so than richard nixon. and he is practically, you know,
standing outside the white house saying listen to me, listen to me. and, you know, he writes -- he's calling and calling and wanting clinton to talk to him, and the call's not coming back, so he writes a very friendly op-ed about the great promise of the clinton presidency. there's no word. then he writes a somewhat tougher op-ed, and he privately sends the signal either you take my calls, or these columns are going to be getting tougher and tougher. [laughter] >> he's bad copping the president of the united states. >> so finally, you know, clinton calls him and, of course, realizes as some of his predecessors have is nixon is still incredibly shrewd about the world, he has an extraordinary sense of what was going on in the former soviet union, what was going on. but clinton, as they become late night phone buddies, it isn't just about foreign policy. he wants to talk to nixon about how to organize his day, how to use his time.
this is when i'm getting up in the morning, this is what i'm doing, and a president's time is the most scarce and precious thing that he has, and he wanted to know if 4e6s using well which in the first months he was not. he was kind of a mess. so he was calling nixon to say, how do i do this? which nixon loved. 20-odd years later this is still an impossible challenge. >> and when we interviewed clinton about this, he said one of his most prized possessions was a letter nixon had sent him a month before he dies in march 1994. nixon had just gone to russia with clinton's okay, in fact, he'd gone with clinton's instructions. there are many foreign trips in this book, secret missions. this was one of them. and at the end of the trip, nixon writes clinton a long seven-page, single-spaced letters. it's never been released. we asked if we could see it, and he said no.
but he told something that was in some ways better. he said, but i -- it's an amazing letter. it's hard-headed, it's smart, and we said how -- he quoted something from it. and we said, how do you know? and he said, oh, i reread it every year. and when nixon died in 1994 and it was clinton, the clinton white house that announced the death, and clinton, of course, gave the eulogy, he said a few weeks later he missed him in the same way he missed his mother. not is tame -- not the same, similar, because he said i often found myself wishing i could pick up the phone and ask him for advice. >> now, it was a truly extraordinary thing that we got to witness a father and son in the white house. you know, what are the chances of that, and if politics is complicated, family is really complicated. and yet the only thing more extraordinary than the fact that president george herbert walker bush got to see his son elected
president is that he actually serves as the father or surrogate father of more than one president. what we found really incredible is the buddy movie of all time, is the friendship that developed -- again, cross-party, cross-generation -- between president clinton and the entire bush family to the point that they now have a nickname for him, they call him their brother from another mother. [laughter] >> we get asked about this a lot. when the two men finally meet in to value office, remember, this is the first pairing of father and son presidents since the 19th century. both men are overcome. thisthis is later in the day, obviously. but it was an emotional moment. a lot of people have asked us how much did bush ii listen to bush i, how much did he ignore bush i's advice, and we always say -- and the reporting bears this out as much as maybe people's wishes were that it not true -- is that the, in some
ways the son was the comforter to the father, that all through the gulf war which was a very difficult time for the president it was, it was the younger man who would call the father up and say, um, turn off the television, you know? you've got to stop watching this stuff. the older man was concerned about the criticism just as any father would be of his son. and i think the what 41 decides early on was that his son had a lot of advisers, but he really only had one dad. and so that would be the role that he would play which is probably the choice most, i think, fathers would make. anyway, easily misunderstood but really simple when you think about it. this is not all "kumbaya." i don't know what the opposite of that is, but we have a lot of that in this book. and this is one of the earliest. >> so, again, you know, these relationships tend to follow often a twisting path. so if you look at eisenhower and truman, two men, architects in a
way of the postwar world. they worked very closely and effectively together as they're trying to figure out america's role as a surviving superpower, the idea of permanently stationing american troops in europe and selling reluctant american republican congress on the idea of nato. truman understood it would take someone of eisenhower's stature to get this idea to be accepted. and so they were so effective as partners through those years immediately following the war that in 1948 truman even says to eisenhower, you know, if you're thinking about running, i'll get out of the way. i won't only get out of the way, i'll be your vice president if you want. so you have these men who start out with very warm relations who by the time in 1952 eisenhower does run for president, it all comes apart. and it comes apart badly, mainly over the fact that truman concluded that eisenhower was
failing to stand up to and challenge the most extreme elements of his party and especially senator mccarthy. and truman was furious about this. he called eisenhower a moral coward, and he started campaigning across the country saying eisenhower was unfit for the office, that anyone who would not stand up to mccarthy did not deserve to be president of the united states. so, therefore, no surprise maybe that on inauguration day eisenhower initially refused to pick up truman to go to the inauguration. they barely spoke throughout eisenhower's presidency. truman does not step foot back in the white house. but these relationships, again, it's never that simple. and the two men do find themselves again together, mainly at funerals, particularly in november of 1963 when they share a limousine back from arlington cemetery and the burial of president kennedy. and they start talking about
their own burial plans. and in that sort of shadow of their mortality, small things fall away, the big things come back. truman turns to eisenhower and says, do you want to come in for a drink? and they end up back at blair house talking and reconciling. and so a friendship that turns into a feud turns back into a reconciliation because, ultimately, what they both had been through by this time, what they both knew as presidents was much more important than the fights that they had had. >> that story had a happy ending. this one not so much. but you have to tell this. >> well, you know, i don't know that there have ever been two political combatants more skilled and, um, fighting for stakes as high as richard nixon and lyndon johnson. and the remarkable thing you remember that in the 1968 election johnson had decided not to run for another term. all he wanted was to redeem his presidency, leave office as a peacemaker. he was determined that there
should be some kind of a breakthrough. richard nixon, of course, had his own reasons for worrying that if there were a breakthrough in vietnam, that he did not stand a very good chance of winning that election. very shortly before election day in 1968 johnson discovers that richard nixon's allies had been secretly sabotaging the peace talks. he calls this treason privately. what does he do about it? this is 1968. we've seen bobby kennedy assassinated, we'd seen martin luther king assassinated, we'd seen the democratic convention turn into a war zone. and i think part of johnson's calculation was what it would do to the country to have an outgoing president accuse a major party candidate of sabotageing peace negotiations at the most delicate moment. but it was an extraordinary moment of confrontation and,
ultimately, johnson decides not to challenge nix sob antibiotic -- nixon about it. and that election, you remember, was very, very close. four years later -- understand now all the reasons nixon had to keep johnson very happy. it was johnson during the transition that showed for example son where the tape recorders were in the white house. i think it was one of the reasons why he orchestrated johnson's birthday party, why he sent a jet down to the ranch with briefs papers every week. he really wanted to keep johnson in the tent. >> the laid bybird grove -- lady canbird grove. they created a special forest for ladybird to pay homage to johnson. >> watergate is now gaining force, and in january of 1973, nixon's men call johnson and say, you know, you might want to call your friends in the senate and just tell them to back off on this watergate investigation
or else, you know, we'll reveal the fact that you were illegally surveilling, eavesdropping on us back in 1968 to which johnson said, well, if you do that, i'll say what i learned when i was illegally -- [laughter] wiretapping you back in 1968. i mean, this extraordinary moment of sort of mutual back mail, and -- blackmail. the reason it didn't all blow up was about two weeks later nixon is inaugurated for his second term, and two days after that lyndon johnson died of a heart attack. and at that moment, that rather perilous moment, there was no club. harry truman had died at christmas, johnson died in january, nixon is all alone. >> this picture really tells you all you need to know about george herbert walker bush's feeling. not every president gets along with members of the other party.
jimmy carter has been a challenge for all of them. [laughter] i think it's probably because it's i carter's nature to be a my way or the highway kind of guy. he's also had another challenge. he left the office at the age of 56 or 57. in september, jimmy carter becomes the longest-living ex-president in american history. 31 years -- hang on. 31 years, eight months, three days surpassing herbert hoover's record. carter has worked very hard at his second career. when he got out of office, he was depressed for a year. he wasn't sure what to do. he was confused. i have a long life, this is going to be hard. but he writes some books, he starts doing charitable stuff, you know? he has done huge amounts of things at home and overseas in the last 31 years and eight months. he won the nobel prize, but he also has a way -- and all the presidents have turned to him,
sent him on foreign missions of some kind. and he has normally delivered the goods, but he has a tendency to go off script. [laughter] this was a kind of classic moment, it's at the tubal of koh relate a that -- funeral of coretta scott king. it was a moment to pay homage to a civil rights leader. carter used it as a chance to very gently criticize the other man's son who was then president. carter has a way of saying things like this: i feel that my role as a former president is probably superior to that of other president. you know, every club needs a black sheep. [laughter] it gives everyone else in the club something to unite around. clinton would also send carter overseas, but even when he did it the first and second time, he wasn't sure that it was going to all turn out okay. i love that quote. i'm sending carter. you think it will be okay, don't you? [laughter] the last thing we want to talk
about here is how the club really works to unite when the presidency is in crisis. the presidency is more important than any president. they all recognize that in our politics today, which don't work very well, that one thing that has to work, always has to be functioning and powerful and effective, is the presidency. >> and this is where we see them most willing to put self-interest, put party interest, put political interest aside. and join together, make common cause around some larger purpose. we see it with truman and hoover again where, of all people, to completely reorganize the executive branch why on earth would truman sign off on herbert hoover chairing what became known as the hoover commission. this was a guy who everyone assumed was just going to dismantle the entire new deal superstructure of government what truman knew at this time about hoover was hoover had been president in a moment of national crisis, and he knew
that a president needs the tools to be able to meet a crisis. and especially in the postwar nuclear age having those tools was more important than ever. and truman trusted hoover to do a reorganization of the executive that would empower the presidents who followed. it was, essentially, the great gift that they both gave to all the presidents who followed, to organize and rationalize the executive branch in a way presidents would be able to function better. and the fact that hoover strengthened the presidency at a moment that it was occupied by a democrat made no difference. in fact, in the course of gathering the information for the hoover commission, hoover found out so much that was wrong and wasteful in government that if he had let any of it be known during the 1948 election, it's very easy to imagine. reporters at the time later said it's amazing hoover didn't leak any of this. he kept it to himself because his larger goal was to make sure that the president si itself was strengthened for all the presidents who followed.
>> something we see across party all the time. >> we see it again when hoover and eisenhower advise richard nixon not to challenge the results in 1960. as close as that race was, as many accusations there were of some funny business. in phone calls within 15 minutes of each other, eisenhower and hoover both say to nixon, it would not be good for the country. you stand down. >> and would be seen overseas as -- >> we needed a much smoother, the smooth, peaceful transition of power was an essential model that america represented around the world. and this was not a time to be having a prolonged battle over it. >> this is the pardon for just a fact, we haven't talked about gerald ford very much although he plays a role at a number of points of trying to protect the presidency both, i think, in his pardon of nixon which he
realized his presidency simply could not begin until that was taken off the table. later he would try to rescue clinton from impeachment in 1998, trying to get clinton to admit that he lied. in the end he couldn't convince clinton, but he worked really hard to try to make that happen. this is the famous meeting at century city. most people don't know these two men actually met. as far as i can tell, they met twice. first in 1983 when president reagan invited all the governors to the white house, so both bill and hillary clinton, there's a picture of them with -- am i right? that's the only other time, right? whew. it is not the place to make a mistake about that. [laughter] that picture just -- and this is the other picture which we only found lately in the time/life archives. it's a great story. century plaza. i would say late november 1992.
bill clinton is in his post-election, pre-inauguration tour. he pays a courtesy call on ronald reagan. they have a brief and polite conversation about things that every president or would-be president agree on like the line-item veto and the need for tighter budgets, and at one point clinton asks the question any other advice for me? reagan says you've got to get to camp david, you have got to get out of that building. it's good for the soul to get out into the mountains, and it was advice that clinton didn't really take until he realized a year or two into his presidency he needed to get out of the house. the other thing as president reagan had been watching president clinton during the campaign and found his salutes a little wimpy as john was too kind to say. but it was not a sharp, crisp salute. and, of course, president reagan had been in the military, he had also played many roles of military officers, and clinton,
as i understand it, then asked reagan to show him how to do it. so the two men actually had a brief saluting clinic there in the century plaza offices of the president. and it reminded me that it was eisenhower who taught kennedy how to press a couple of putons on the phone and make a quick getaway by helicopters, and it was johnson who taught nixon where the tapes were, although johnson may have had a scheme up his sleeve about that. [laughter] it's not just matters of policy that the commanders in chief pass on tips. this was one where a former president had a particularly keen understanding of the role that public perception plays in leadership not just about public firms, but our -- officials, but our private ones. it's very important. and clinton would learn that, and he would come to salute every time he got off the helicopter just as president reagan with had done. and it it was passed on further when george w. bush went to
visit clinton, and bush asked clinton, he said to him, you know, you didn't used to be such a great speaker -- because clinton had given a horrible speech one time at i would say the 1988 democratic convention. and he said do you have any tips about how to give a good speech? so the president's club functions on levels both high and sometimes just very practical. >> but, ultimately, i think what struck is the you would, of all the rules and the rituals and the clubhouse itself, the thing that makes the club most real is this notion that the office itself is more important than the individuals. and who occupy it. and we kept hearing this again and again and again, particularly when one administration gives way to another. so in january of 2009 president bush summoned the entire club membership to the white house to meet the new guy. and he says at that time to president obama, look, we all
want you to succeed. and those of us who have been in this office know, the office transsends the individual -- transsends the individual. and what michael and i took away from all of this research was seeing how, these are men, they're fiercely ambitious. they've played immense roles in our country's history. they all are automaticked by how -- haunted by how history will remember them. they have very deep, strong, wide, broad agendas themselves. and yet over and over and over again we also saw them set those agendas aside or move past them or find a larger interest that brought them together and brought them together to do great and important things. or to do the small but still highly important work of just helping each other. because it is a very hard job. it's not a job they can plain about. it's not something they can whine about. they all fought in many cases much of their lives to get the job.
but once they do it, there's something that comes up again and again where jefferson called it, you know, a splendid misery, buchanan called the presidency a crown of thorns. truman used to refer to the great white jail that is the white house. it is also a very difficult job. and even the ones who do it successfully can be wounded by it and bear burdens from having done it, and there are very few people they can talk to about it. so the one thing they want one another to know is, yeah, basically, i get it. you can call me, i understand. i get it. i know how hard it is, and i won't give you a hard time. and that's what we saw here, and it's what we saw all through history, and i think it is a model maybe that many of us can take back with us in whatever realm we are operating. so thank you very much. we'd be happy to take your questions, um -- [applause]
>> um, nancy and michael have been gracious enough to allow a few minutes at the end here for some questions, so all i ask is if you have a question, if you could raise your hand, we have people in the aisles who have microphones, and is just wait until the microphone gets in your hand. and we'll start right over here. >> is there such a situation with the first ladies like the presidents? >> it's so interesting how we've, a lot of people have been curious about that. and what i think we all have seen is that first ladies are especially aware if you are trying to raise children in the white house. and it seems to be mainly girls -- >> lately. >> lately it has been, you know, there was a johnson girl, nixon girls, amy carter, chelsea clinton, the bush girls and now the obama girls. as a mother of girls, it's a
wonderful, glorious challenge in any event. trying to do it in the bright white lights of the white house would be especially challenging. and hillary clinton has talked about how helpful jackie kennedy was to her. lucy johnson told us that there's a reason why first families don't criticize each other. she says it's not that we're all such wonderful people, it's that we understand how difficult it is. so there is, i think there is something of a kinship among the first families. there's a marvelous picture that we saw up here in the library of, um, six first ladies together. and, certainly, i think there is a bond between them because they, too, are having a very unique experience. having said that, the semi-official infrastructure of the presidents' club is unique to presidents. i suspect it will not be long before it is no longer an all-male club. but for the time being we haven't seen any, any equivalent
outside of the presidents themselves. >> here's another question here. >> everyone saw the photograph of the 16, 17-year-old bill clinton shaking the hand of president kennedy, even though it was only for a second probably. is there any evidence that bill clinton met lyndon johnson? he would have been a college student around that time. but is there, are there any photographs? >> we asked clinton if -- because i suspected that if he had had a chance, he would have. [laughter] >> and, in fact, in the his office n president clinton's office is a signed picture from lyndon johnson that had to be 40 years -- >> there's a story. the story's great. you know, he just, clinton just reviewed the robert caro book in "the new york times" on sunday which we thought was an excellent club idea, and we supported it as club authors. we thought that was good. [laughter] in 1972 clinton is tapped by
george mcgovern to run texas for mcgovern which as lost causes go -- [laughter] is one of the great lost causes. texans for mcgovern. [laughter] hopeless. who was the only ally they thought they had, the people running texas? lyndon johnson, except he wasn't really sure he would form -- for mcgovern either. so the day comes when mcgovern and tom eagleton go to the ranch just before they realize eagleton might not be the best vice presidential candidate. bill clinton, the co-chairman of texans for mcgovern and his coach tailor branch who would eventually be clinton's diarist, sort of, had to flip a coin about which one accompanies them to the ranch to meet johnson. clinton loses the coin toss, so taylor brings back from the
meeting -- which did not go well, by the way -- a signed picture for clinton of lbj. so that's as close as clinton got to meeting lbj. [laughter] but what's great about the american presidency is we all remember when or if we saw, even if it's a motorcade going by, so ronald reagan remembers that he saw fdr on the back of a train somewhere in iowa. i think it was des moines. i'm pulling that, but i wouldn't count at it. and he was at a truman event as i mentioned before, so everyone has their creation stories, but clinton never met lbj. he told us he thought as all presidents do, history will be kinder to him. [laughter] that's what they all hope for. right over here. >> so implications of the presidents club is that's unique to the american democracy, are there similar models in europe and other democracies, prime ministers of britain? >> can i answer this? >> yeah. >> i think what's amazing about
the presidents club in america -- well, let me answer it this way. i read a story in "the new york times" yesterday about how, you know, it was inevitable that sarkozy would be defeated because he wasn't a typically french president. the french like their presidents grandfatherly and cool and anti-american. [laughter] and sarkozy was none of those things. he wasn't grandfatherly, cool -- and that reminds me, when we go back to this picture, i mean, go back, please. there's nothing in common about any of these guys. they're all different. it's a classic american story. we elect presidents who don't begin to fit in the same mold. and if you went back to the following five, it would be just as different if you added reagan and nixon and johnson and kennedy. i mean, this club bespeaks our own makeup and our own, um, widely different, you know, backgrounds. and it's a quintessentially american thing. so i don't think there would -- the clubs you would have in france or england probably
already existed. you wouldn't have to create them because they all came out of clubs. [laughter] there's no, there's no club that would have all these guys as member in america. they're just too different. so that's why i think it's so remarkable about this, is that they've created their own, and that, too, creating your own association is a quintessentially american thing. >> well put. back here. >> when you were doing your research, did you have a chance to talk to all the living presidents, and what was their take on your book? >> with we, we were able to talk to president clinton and the first president bush and president carter. i had interviewed, as it happened, the second president bush before we were working on this book and just, you know, got -- i happened to ask him his view of his predecessors, and i was asking him club questions before i even knew there was a club. so we were very, very grateful for the help they were willing to give us. i think, though, you know, this
is a pretty intimate group, and i think there are lots of things that they will not talk about, and i would even argue as citizen that's as it should be. so, um, but we were -- i think we got a lot of help from them and from people who had served often multiple presidents and had a chance to compare the way they function and who they rely on and when they reach out and how this little inner circle works. >> we have time for one last question. back here. >> are there security levels such that the present president cannot discuss certain levels of information with other presidents? >> well, i think if you were going to, um, tell anyone outside the tightest circles, a former president would be among them. george herbert walker bush sent them monthly news letters kind
of -- not monthly. he offered them secure phones, and interestingly, all but one turned them down. i think a lot of them who used to be presidents kind of want to get away a little. they've had enough of that secure world stuff, i gave that up for something better or different. so i don't think there's a, um, a real downside the telling any of those guys if that happen. i think what's interesting is when they tell -- even after the strike on osama bin laden the first two calls were first to george walker bush and then to bill clinton because i think he knew these two men had both in their own way tried to get him and were impeded for different reasons, unable to make it happen or pull it off. and i think obama was saying or tipping his hat to the fact that this had been a shared mission over threepresidencies, and it took all three to get it done. that's a more important kind of loop. thank you. >> so we are about out of time. just on behalf of everyone here,
the reagan library and the foundation, mike and nancy, i just want to say thank you so much for coming. it was just fascinating, and we're so happy that you're here. >> thank you. [applause] >> tonight on booktv, "in depth" with author and pulitzer prize-winning columnist annar. quindlen as she talks about social policy and the politics that guide it. po >> in terms of female representation, we're behind and iraq and north korea.ike so americans like to th congratulate themselves all the time on we're number one on all these things. we're just not. um, you know, we're not doing very well on infant mortality. we're not doing very well on maternal mortality. obviously, we've talked so much like obesity and good health, but in terms of women leading, we really are not
doing anywhere near as well as we should be doing. and we shouldn't be doing it not because it's fair or egalitarian. i mean, that was our early argument. we should have women in high places because that's the fairness principle.inci well, i believe in the fairnessl principle, but i also believe ia pragmatism. if everything worked in america, if law firms were chugging along really well and hospitals were running like clockwork and congress was really doing a bang-up job, i would say, well, you know, things are pretty good. we need women in leadership positions because nobody is leading as well as they should be. and if we're ignoring a big chunk of the population, maybe that accounts for why the leadership is not as good as it ought to be. >> watch the entire three-hour "in depth" interview with anna quindlen tonight at 8 eastern here on c-span2. >> up next, economics professor vi