Publishers weekly

Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump

Kate Andersen Brower. Harper, $28.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-266897-4

Journalist Brower (The Residence) examines the post–White House lives of Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama in this illuminating and anecdote-laden account. Opening with an Oval Office interview with President Trump (in a “buoyant, exuberant mood” after the release of the Mueller Report), Brower then lists the “unwritten rules” that guide relationships between ex-presidents (“avoid criticizing the sitting president at all costs”; “come together for celebrations”) and details “unexpected friendships” between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush (former first lady Barbara Bush called them “the odd couple”) and between George W. Bush and Barack Obama. She describes the processes of transferring the White House from one occupant to the next and of building a presidential library, and quotes former first ladies and presidents on the surreal experience of returning to civilian life. Though Trump once “desperately wanted” to earn the approval of his predecessors, Brower writes, he has since “disparaged all the former living presidents” and seems unconcerned “that he will be an outcast from the Presidents Club.” Brower maintains a light touch throughout, highlighting moments of accord rather than division and offering little in the way of analysis. Presidential history buffs will enjoy this respectful peek into one of America’s most exclusive clubs. (May)


Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump
By Kate Andersen Brower

May 2020. 336p. illus. Harper, $28.99 (9780062668974). 320

With each inauguration a new ex-president is instantly created, a celebrity who goes from the center of the world’s attention into a new life devoid of the cosseted Executive Mansion existence—no more Air Force One, no more being waited on. Ex-presidents lack formal Constitutional status in the American governmental system, but they hold a certain moral sway and have contributed much to the nation’s welfare. Brower (The Residence, 2015) looks to currently living ex-presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama and the late George H. W. Bush to learn how each constructed a life after the White House. This team of five also brings forward an auxiliary team of spouses who often verbalize opinions they had to repress while in the White House. Brower does not deny partisan politics, but she finds an overarching spirit of camaraderie among those who’ve borne the office’s burdens. Based on what Brower has learned from the past, she guardedly and generously tries to anticipate how Donald Trump will fare when he eventually joins this tiny fraternity. Insights into presidential life beyond the rancor of everyday politics will make this a very popular read for the general public.

Mark Knoblauch