Sometimes, a book appears in stores or online that catches my eye. I know just by reading the book title that it will be a page turner or for some people a “finger swiper” on our digital readers.
I have been reading the “The Presidents Club, Inside The World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity” for a few weeks now. With a length of more than 650 pages, I have been taking my time reading it. The book is well researched and written by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy and published by Simon and Schuster. Nancy Gibbs is a graduate of Yale University and the University of Oxford. She is Managing Editor of Time Magazine. Michael Duffy is a graduate of Oberlin College. He is Washington Bureau Chief and Executive Editor for Time Magazine.
Right from the first Chapter, they caught my attention and kept it all the way through. I actually read some chapters twice just to retain some of the information they revealed in the book. They discuss the history leading to the formation of the President’s Club but it begins to get interesting when they write about President Harry Truman asking for help from former President Herbert Hoover. The top Democrat asking for help from a Republican most democrats didn’t want to be associated with in any way. But President Truman was different. He knew how to use resources and Herbert Hoover was just the right guy to prevent starvation in Europe after World War II. There are many stories like this throughout the book.
It travels through history covering all of the Presidents to the current sitting President Barack Obama and how they viewed the “Club” and, more importantly, how they used the members of the exclusive fraternity.
I would recommend this book to any history scholar or presidential historian looking for a different perspective on the use of power. It might change your view on several Presidents and how they operated. After reading this book, I changed my opinion on a few Presidents. One President I gained even more respect for during the my reading, Harry Truman. One President the authors elevated his stature in my mind, Herbert Hoover. I knew that former President Richard Nixon was a diplomatic and foreign policy guru and the authors prove it in the book. The book also reveals how certain former Presidents can be difficult at the least.
After reading the book, you can entertain your own conclusions.
I have read a number of stories lately concerning many people who dislike Margaret Thatcher and her policies while serving as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979-1990. These words are naïve and just plain stupid. Just like her Iron Lady name implied, she was the kind of Prime Minister who said with her actions, “Enough is enough!” She said it with the Falklands War. She said it with the British Labour Unions. She said it every time she stood up each week to face her British Parliament adversaries, the Labour Party.
Her weekly confrontations with members of the Parliament were interesting to watch. They were televised on CSPAN on the weekends. She took no prisoners and didn’t give an inch. Her confidence in her ideas gave her the strength to take on anybody, including the male power structure.
She was Britain’s first woman Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party. She served three terms as Prime Minister and made some tough choices to get the economy back on track. Starting in 1981, the economy experienced 8 consecutive years of growth. The ultra-liberal factions of the Parliament never were satisfied with her choices while the elitists sought to demonize her. However, tough choices had to be made and she was the one to do it. During the 1982 Falklands War, the government tried to arrive at a diplomatic solution but when those talks failed to provide any common ground, Prime Minister Thatcher was ready to use military power.
Thatcherism was a label that defined her style of politics but Margaret Thatcher gave her country something more important-a reason to be proud of their country. Many people in America liked her, some of course didn’t. Like conservatives, some liberals just can’t come around and recognize a good leader’s accomplishments. Although she was a revolutionary by breaking political barriers, she didn’t like to be dictated to by them, such as the IRA. The IRA tried to take her out with a bomb in 1984. She showed up the next day to deliver a speech to say, “You are not going to get your way.” She curbed union power by taking on the coal unions and took on the biggest union of all, the Soviet Union. A Soviet Union publication gave her the name, “The Iron Lady.” She helped bring about the end of he Soviet Union by letting President Ronald Reagan know that this Gorbachev fellow is someone we can deal with.
Margaret Thatcher will be remembered for her tough leadership but also as one of the great personalities of the 20th Century and one Britain’s best leaders in peace and during wars and cold wars.
Margaret Thatcher died on April 8, 2013. There is one point everyone can agree on when discussing Margaret Thatcher. She will be remembered.
It’s President’s Day February 18th. With that, it’s worth discussing the gradual, double-edged communication sword candidates have had to integrate into their campaign to get their ideas to the voting public. Today, information technology has given candidates faster, easier ways to present their solutions and ideas to Americans. It also means the news cycle is quicker and reaches a wider audience if there is a slip up in their strategy or if a candidate misspeaks or gets some facts wrong.
George Washington never campaigned openly for the Presidency. He was ambitious but thought brazenly crusading for the office to be uncouth. He was a master at working behind the scenes, talking to the right people, while appearing to not covet the office but would accept it for the betterment of the nation. As history shows, Washington was the perfect person to be the first President because he didn’t want any royal titles and his leaving after two terms set the standard for years to come.
In 1836, William Henry Harrison first used a train to campaign across America. Later in 1840, William Henry Harrison was the first to openly campaign for the Presidency running against incumbent Martin Van Buren with the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” “Tyler Too” refers to John Tyler who would take office after President Harrison’s death due to sickness brought on by a one hour and 45 minute inauguration speech in the freezing, cold, Washington, DC, winter. Harrison served one month before Tyler assumed the office.
Despite the use of mass transportation such as trains, Candidates James Garfield in 1880 and William McKinley in 1896 won their elections by just sitting on the porch and welcoming visitors and serving drinks. While they were visiting, the candidates had the opportunity to present their ideas and give campaign speeches. McKinley was also reportedly the first to use the telephone to make campaign calls.
After the turn of the century, President Teddy Roosevelt was the first to be documented on film delivering campaign speeches. His bombastic, fist pumping style was perfectly suited for silent film.
Soon afterwards, radio broadcasts appeared on the political scene. President Calvin Coolidge used radio to deliver addresses in the early 1920s. Later, the 1924 election featured the candidates Coolidge and Democratic candidate John Davis delivering campaign speeches on the radio.
The Presidential debates and conventions in 1952 were the first to use the television medium to get their ideas to the public. Eisenhower’s campaign created the first TV ad. The catchy tune, “We Like Ike.” Later, President Lyndon Johnson used the television medium effectively for the “Daisy” campaign ad that ran only once but was effective in beating Senator Barry Goldwater in 1964’s election. Before the development of cable and 24 hour news channels, candidates planned their strategy with the realization that fewer television channels and reporters existed. However, the audiences were larger per channel. Even so, the Public Broadcasting System didn’t begin until 1970.
Today the press pool is larger and news channels and producers require a constant news cycle with pressure to fill the air space and get ratings.
Presidential Candidates have to negotiate several cable news organizations as well as local affiliate news reporters and anchors. In addition, the internet, YouTube, Twitter, blog writers, mobile media have given candidates more information streams. Candidates also use or have to make themselves available for the morning talk show circuit on radio and television. Talk radio has also entered the world of campaigning that can keep a story alive well after the initial news cycle.
The 1996 campaign was the first to use the internet to send out literature such as brochures and other media. The 2000 campaign candidates, Governor Bush and Vice President Gore, each created and maintained their websites. Since then, the internet, with ads, email, and other informational sites, has continually evolved to be a significant part of a campaign.
Despite several additional communication sources to reach the voting public, there is no substitute for face to face, personal exposure–the shaking of a potential voter’s hands. The modern age has seen the use of trains as a recurring theme for presidential candidates. Besides Harrison being the first, others that have used the rails are Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, William Clinton, Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush and most famously, Harry S. Truman on his whistle-stop tour.
All of this means that candidates and incumbents have more ways, more paths, more streams to influence voters, get their ideas out, and communicate how they are better for the country than the other person. With these tools for discovery, it is entirely possible voters will elect a woman to the highest office, and soon.
The other side of the coin is that with more opportunities to reach and more hours in the day speaking on the public stage, the chances for a mistake or a misstep increase. The good news is; it is easier to correct it if you have a counter strategy. Technology is here to stay and the days of a candidate sitting at home on the front porch waiting for voters to arrive to hear him speak are long gone.
If I could go back in time and be given the opportunity to work with or talk with anyone I wanted, the following list is who I would choose. I started thinking about this recently because I was reading an article about George S. Patton and, by all accounts from research, he believed in reincarnation. Specifically, he believed he was a member of Armies that participated in major battles through Europe’s history. I thought, if I could go back, where would I want to be and who would I want to talk to during my stay. It would give me a chance to feel some of that confidence and aura that made them great or controversial.
Riding beside Washington during the battle of Trenton would have been interesting just to see how he commanded his Army. From everything that I have read about his personality, Washington did not talk much. I would just ride along and not ask any questions. I would remain silent so the Father of our Country could concentrate and gain our liberty. I would observe and take notes surreptitiously. I, however, would make sure I was in the same boat at the Delaware River crossing and with him during the assault just to see how he handles himself. Later, during the victory dinner, I would fit in a question or two about it. I would probably ask something ridiculous like, “Was it as cold out there for you last night as it was for me?” or a conversation starter like, “Those Hessians wear some silly hats don’t they?” Washington would have responded, “Shouldn’t you be at Valley Forge.”
2. Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence from June 11-June 28, 1776.
I would hope that I would refrain from interrupting while he was drafting the declaration. More than that, I would hope that I wouldn’t be a back seat writer. For instance, when he writes, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I wouldn’t want to say something amateurish like, “Isn’t that a little wordy?” Instead I would say something like, “That’s perfect, Tom. Adams doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
3. Charlie Chaplin working on films in early 20th Century Hollywood.
This would be great just to work around a genius at the start of the industry. I would probably be asking for a part in all of his films. “Hey Charlie, do you have a part for me in ‘Gold Rush’ or ‘City Lights’ or the ‘The Kid’. Either way, I would just hang out and watch how he worked his magic.
4. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs at Silicon Valley in the 1980s.
This would have been great to hang out in the conference rooms of both sides just to see what they would have been saying about each other. Sitting in on all the business decisions and negotiations that helped build both companies would have been enlightening. I would have been at the ground floor and bought all those company shares before the IPO and watched them grow. This is starting to get a little sad, I’ll stop writing now.
5. Mark Twain while touring Europe and writing Innocents Abroad in 1867.
Touring Europe and the Middle East with Mark Twain would have been a hoot. Hanging out at the local café or pub with him cracking wise on American tourists or the local scene seems like a great way to pass the time.
An African Safari with President Teddy Roosevelt! All he would have to say is “Do you want to come along.” “Yes!!!!” I would be waiting at the docks to board the ship going to Africa. He undertook the trip so he could bring back specimens for the National Museum and the American Museum of Natural History. He also became a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association in 1907 when he was President. I could just see myself standing beside Roosevelt while a Rhino charges waiting patiently for him to shoot before I would. I’m pretty sure I would have been faster than President Roosevelt if things got out of hand-I think.
7. Captain Meriwether Lewis and William Clark during the Corps of Discovery expedition west to map out the newly purchased US Territory from France past the Mississippi River in 1804-1806.
This would have an adventure worth taking. I would have traveled with the expedition and would have seen new rivers and forests on my way to the Pacific Ocean. I probably would have suggested a route a little more South. Lewis and Clark would have said, “No back seat driving.” Let’s face it, we take driving west for granted today because we have nice four lane highway and rest stop and hotels. These two and their expedition didn’t even have a dirt road or trail.
8. Abraham Lincoln for the whole four years in the White House sitting in the oval office so I could hear some of his stories.
Lincoln was great story-teller. I would have been content just to hang around and be his sounding board while he was trying to end the Civil War. If he threw in a humorous story now and then, I would have been content. One thing is for sure, I would have tried to attend the play with him and his wife, Mary, at Ford’s Theatre on April 14th. I would have also heard the door open behind us.
The Presidents of the United States have been in office during the successful years and the difficult times. There are websites devoted to the men who served in the office and what words they have spoken while occupying the position. The following are the most intriguing quotes from these men and what I think they wanted to say to the American people. This post is a subjective exercise. I am listing the ones that impress me.
He was pointing out that most men have a price. When someone is prepared to give the highest bounty you have asked, few men or women can say “no.” The historical record is littered with people who have compromised their integrity for money, power and influence. Most have paid a price of some kind in either loss of reputations, loss of wealth or loss of freedom and sometimes all three.
2. “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have. “ Gerald Ford
This is perfect quote that demonstrates how government can take on a human dynamic. A government that is big enough to provide you with everything you need or desire can also use power to take those things away and then some. Most communist or socialist governments try to provide their citizens what they need but in exchange the society is forced to relinquish freedoms, like free press, free movement within boundaries, rights to privacy and slanted judgments within the judicial system. 3. “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit. “ Harry S Truman
Every program manager and leader in America should have this hanging on the wall somewhere. If one person decides that their ego is above a certain goal, then accomplishing a goal just got that much more difficult. The tough part is getting a team to “buy in” to that idea. It is fine to deliver kudos and credit afterwards. That is what capitalism is all about. However, if you want to get somewhere fast, then build a team with one thought in mind and that is delivering an excellent product on time and within budget. Today’s congress, state and local governments should take a lesson from this. 4. “As man draws nearer to the stars, why should he not also draw nearer to his neighbors?” Lyndon Johnson
Despite President Johnson’s intentions it seems that technology has pulled us away from each other. He is right. Just because we have all of this technology for our benefit doesn’t mean we as American’s can’t take time to get to know neighbors at home or strangers on the subway. He also might be speaking about getting to know America’s neighbors in the world, as in making an effort to know other countries cultures.
5. “Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. “ Ronald Reagan
President Reagan nailed it. Democracy in action may have its faults but it is the most effective and successful form of government produced by people. There are many forms of democracy but any shade of it is much more effective than an autocracy, theocracy, monarchy or oligarchy.
6.”The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutters.” Dwight D. Eisenhower
This piece of wisdom is perfect for today’s political climate. Extremes are where nothing ever gets done. There has to be some compromise so people can move forward and not let their goals end up stalled in a ditch somewhere. It’s easy to be inflexible. It is much more difficult to find common ground with your ideological opposite.
7. “True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made. “ Franklin D. Roosevelt
If you want capitalism and democracy, you have to make it work. As the late, former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neal used to say “All politics is local.” A politician can deliver and distribute many loft ideas about how government should operate. To most people striving to make a living and take care of their families, the measure of success is: Do I have a JOB? How much am I paying for gas? Can I afford groceries this month? Can I live comfortably and can I retire? If you don’t have these, then you have people willing to change the system to something else, like a dictatorship.
8. “Our problems are man-made; therefore they may be solved by man. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. “ John F. Kennedy
President Kennedy had one trait that makes great leaders, “A can do spirit.” He was saying, what we destroy we can rebuild. What we break, we can fix. What problems we create, we can solve. Everything that is around us was built, engineered, and invented by man. So with this in mind, he states, that man can solve these problems through the continuing ingenuity of man.
9. “People ask the difference in a leader and a boss. The leader leads and the boss drives. “
President Roosevelt states here that real leaders motivate people. A boss drives or “works” his people through fear or intimidation. Leading and motivating people will get you to your goal a lot sooner. This, of course, is a lot more difficult to put into practice. Some people learn it, some just have it, and others never learn the lesson.
What quote do you like? Leave a suggestion and tell me why?