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Thu Apr 30, 2020, 06:53 PM

Club Rules


Club Rules
May 2020
When the commander in chief departs the White House, he's typically welcomed into a close-knit brotherhood of former presidents. In an exclusive excerpt from her new book, Team of Five, KATE ANDERSEN BROWER reveals why Donald Trump will be left out of the world's most elite fraternity
KATE ANDERSEN BROWER


IT IS A BRILLIANTLY sunny day in the spring of 2019 when I sit down across from President Donald Trump in the Oval Office, ready to discuss how he imagines a particular aspect of his postpresidential life—that of his relationship with his fellow former presidents. Because one overlooked casualty of Trump's norm-defying presidential tenure is the way he has upended the unspoken rules among living former presidents, who have traditionally welcomed one another enthusiastically, regardless of party, into the world's most exclusive club.

In the club, which has its own set of expectations and its own unique set of personalities, power is never completely relinquished—the four living former presidents will always be called Mr. President, and that is how they want it. During the Trump era from January 2017 to November 2018, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama were all members of the so-called Presidents Club, until the elder Bush's death. Despite their different political trajectories, all have lived their postpresidential years fully understanding what is expected of them. Some are more engaged than others, but there is a precedent they all adhere to—with the exception of Carter, who has paid for his disobedience with occasional suspensions from the club. At times throughout history, other former presidents have shirked these rules, but doing so has come at a steep price—their all-important legacies are forever tarnished.

By the time I meet Trump in the Oval Office, I have already spent two years interviewing top aides, close friends, and family members of the former presidents, and traveled to Plains, Georgia, to sit down with the Carters. We are nearly a year away from the early, uncertain days of the novelcoronavirus pandemic, when Trump will tell a CNBC reporter, "We have it totally under control.... It's going to be just fine."

Former presidents used to help each other in times of crisis. Trump has made that impossible. He has not spoken with Obama or Clinton since his inauguration more than three years ago (aside from a brief hello and goodbye to Obama during George H.W. Bush's funeral in December 2018). In fact, the only substantive conversation he and Obama have had was during the customary visit Trump made to the Oval Office two days after he won the 2016 election. He has been criticizing him ever since. "I didn't like the job that he and Biden did," Trump said at a Fox News Town Hall in March. "I didn't like the position they put us in." Seeking to justify his administration's bungled response to the novel-coronavirus outbreak in America, he attacked Obama, tweeting that his handling of the 2009 H1N1 swine flu was "a full scale disaster, with thousands dying, and nothing meaningful done to fix the testing problem..." Contrast that with John F. Kennedy, who called on all three of his living predecessors to ask for their help during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A year and a half earlier, after the Bay of Pigs disaster, Kennedy had reached out to the man he'd just defeated, Richard Nixon, and to his Republican predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He knew he could not afford to be too proud to ask for help. " No one knows how rough this j ob is until after he has been in it a few months," Kennedy confessed to Eisenhower.

Ronald Reagan sent Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Carter to Anwar Sadat's 1981 Cairo funeral during a sensitive global moment that could have precipitated more violence. And then there's the way the former presidents supported George W. Bush after 9/11, and how George H.W. Bush and Clinton traveled the world together, seeking help after the tsunami in Asia, and in their leadership roles raising money after Hurricane Katrina. They became near-constant companions, doing interviews together and even traveling with George W. as part of the American delegation to Pope John Paul 11's 2005 funeral in Rome. "Come on," Bush senior implored Clinton, "it will be better with you along." Nicknamed "the A-team" in the press, they became like father and son. Time made them Partners of the Year in its 2005 Person of the Year issue. After seeing how powerful the Clinton-Bush team was, President Obama dispatched George W. Bush and Clinton to Haiti to raise awareness and funds after the devastating 2010 earthquake. This kind of teamwork and camaraderie now seems unthinkable and almost quaint.

Former presidents typically don't initiate calls to the sitting president to offer their help because it could come across as meddling. But two people close to George W. Bush say that Bush is open to a call from Trump, even though there is no love lost between the two men. They haven't spoken at any length since two phone calls during the confirmation of controversial Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who had worked in the Bush White House. One former top Tmmp official who knows both men well said that if Trump were to call on Bush for help during this pandemic, Bush would "swallow hard, and he would help however he can for the good of the nation. That's the kind of person he is." But Trump's doing that is nearly inconceivable. "His ego and his dismissal of the former presidents are all part of his mindset," this person said on the condition of anonymity. "Early on I was shocked by some of the things he said about the former presidents. It's not pretty. In my lifetime I haven't seen a president so self-centered," adding, "it is ironic that Trump doesn't hesitate to call up strongmen autocrats like Putin and Erdogan—who are not our friends—but he wouldn't call up Obama, Clinton, or even Bush during this crisis."

Given all of this, it is hard to imagine that, whenever he does leave the White House, Trump will receive a warm welcome into the club. He has accused his immediate predecessor of wiretapping his office ahead of the 2016 election and called his most recent Republican predecessor's foreign policy the worst in history. He perpetually notes that his relationships with other world leaders are better than those of former presidents. But have the years he's spent in that awe-inspiring office given him empathy for what his predecessors went through? "No," he replies flatly. Unlike most of the men who came before him, who aged prematurely and struggled with insomnia while in office, often pacing the halls of the White House in the dead of the night, overwhelmed by the gravity of the position, Trump said he has no trouble sleeping.

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https://archive.vanityfair.com/article/2020/5/club-rules

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babylonsister Apr 2020 OP
Fiendish Thingy Apr 2020 #1
needledriver May 2020 #2

Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Thu Apr 30, 2020, 08:43 PM

1. "Trump said he has no trouble sleeping"...of course, he typically only sleeps 2-4 hours a night nt

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Response to babylonsister (Original post)

Fri May 1, 2020, 09:34 AM

2. *45 will be the greatest, most beautiful member

of the incarcerated ex-presidents club.

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