In this post-inaugural space, with Netflix's new binge-viewing series, House of Cards burning up the airways, book clubs may be looking for political-themed books to read and discuss. Why not start with Nancy Gibbs' and Michael Duffy's The Presidents Club: Inside The World's Most Exclusive Fraternity?
Here are some questions to get you started:
1. The advice to use Camp David: how does this square with the public point of view about presidential vacationing?
2. Taping in the White House: what is your reaction?
3. Conflict between legacy maintenance, presidency protection, and political aims: who handled it well or badly?
4. Personality: what is its effect on a president's ability to lead successfully? Compared to the effect of historical luck?
5. Ideals versus strategy/tactics: which strikes you as most relevant?
6. FDR's treatment of Hoover versus Truman’s: what explains that difference?
7. Presidential libraries: what role do they play in the Presidents Club?
8. Eisenhower/Truman, from friends to enemies: what did you think about the McCarthy/Marshall moment?
9. Handing over the office? Who handled it well or badly and why? What matters in how it is handled?
10. Symbol versus factual achievement: what matters more in determining a president’s legacy?
11. Communication: what did you think about the varying ways presidents communicated with each other?
12. Playing by the rules: what behaviors/individuals do members of the club accept or not? Why? Particularly, given the things you learned about Nixon and Carter, what determines whether manipulations are tolerated or not?
13. Post presidency work: what do you think about the choice between moving into private life or staying in presidential/diplomatic life?
14. Practical uses: what did you find surprising about the ways a sitting president would use the Club?
15. Running the White House: did you see a best way to run decision making/tone setting in the office?
16. Late nights: Johnson wandered the White House halls late at night. Clinton regularly held all-nighters. Nixon went to Lincoln Memorial to talk to protestors late at night. What role do those wanderings play?
17. Treason: did you see any of the former presidents as treasonous? Nixon? Carter?
18. Family connections: what role does that play? (Eisenhower/Nixon wedding, Bush/Bush, Clinton/Clinton, Clinton/Bush?)
19. What do you think of the Twain quote: "History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes"? How about with Ford and impeachment?
20. What is the role of funerals in the club?
21. Personality traits: which did you find most interesting?
22. The last election: what do you think about the club’s role?
23. Lincoln: why does he in particular play such an enduring role for the other presidents?