Time editor on the crucial, high-stakes Presidents Club

Nov 6, 2012

On this day when Americans select their next president, WAMC's Ian Pickus speaks with Time Magazine editor and Washington Bureau Chief Michael Duffy, co-author of The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity, about the relationships between the country's past chief executives.

Presidents, like the rest of us, are living longer these days — and they’re increasingly likely to leave office as relatively young men. That has created a fascinating dynamic for modern White Houses and the politicians who called 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home in the years before.

The always fluctuating ex-presidents club is America’s most exclusive group: necessarily tiny in number but full of often competing egos and interests. Yet throughout the past 100 years, ex-presidents have largely shared a common purpose across party lines, reflective about their service in their golden years and still willing to pick up the phone or board an international flight when the Commander in Chief asks.

Former presidents sometimes find themselves in strange alliances – Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford became friends and allies despite a bitter election, and in recent years Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush grew so close bush family remembers started calling Clinton a lost son.

But the high-stakes nature of post-presidential politics has also led to international crises and protocol mishaps as each iteration of the club struggles to balance its own historical angling with contemporary patriotism.

The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity is published by Simon and Schuster.