Morning Joe | February 18, 2013
>>> on this president's day, a beautiful look at the white house at 33 past the hour. we welcome back deputy managing editor of time magazine , nancy gibbs, and michael fuff if i. their book, "the presidents club ." inside the world's most exclusive fraternity.
>> who's your favorite president? who inspired you as a president throughout history?
>> well, roosevelt was very big in the household i grew up in because like so many americans, he helped the country move from difficulty to prosperity. so he was kind of held pretty high up in my house.
>> nancy .
>> when we've been asked who we wish we could have dinner with, linden johnson usually wins.
>> it'd still be going on.
>> lyndon johnson was a great example of how the presidency wrecks so many powerful forceful men who spend their entire life trying to get there and a lot of times they're just destroyed by the end result, win or lose.
>> it's true, and this is one of the things we find binds them all together. they all limp out of that office, that even the successful ones, much less the ones thrown out prematurely.
>> what a difference when they walk in and are arrogant and think they don't need to talk to anybody, but what your book shows masterfully, and what president obama did was turn the page and say wait, i may not be the only smart guy in the world, and they pick up the phone , whether it's jfk and the cuban missile crisis .
>> last week, the nixon library released some documents trying to explain the relationship with clinton.
>> clinton said it was like a father to him, like he lost a father.
>> yeah, still wishes he could pick up the phone and call him many times. the thing about the presidency is it's on-the-job training. it's the one thing you think doesn't have to have on the job training, but they all do.
>> so one thing people learn from the book is the advice passed down from president to president, and what about second terms and how does that advice differ in those subdivisions, and does it? does it exist or are they left to their own devices?
>> one of my favorite stories about second terms is nixon had clear advice for ronald reagan , and he said get rid of everybody, get rid of the staff. clean house . i did some of it. obviously i should have done more.
>> didn't do enough.
>> and reagan follows a lot of that advice. these things naturally mold and change, but nixon says, don't make the mistake i did. don't go with the team i came in with.
>> one piece of advice they all gave each other that i was reminded of with president obama this weekend, was they all tell each other, you got to relax. go to camp david , get out of the white house . it's the most consistent piece of advice from democrat, republican, it doesn't matter. so it always interests me when you see people criticizing the president for doing anything other than being at his desk is it misunderstands that office so profoundly.
>> what so fascinating also is the burden of the office is so heavy on every man that carries that burden, that when they are together, you're right, a lot of times they don't talk about policy. it's almost enough to be in the same room with the one other person or the two other people on the planet --
>> that can understand.
>> -- who understand what you're going through. like president obama , nobody understands what he's going through unless it's george w. bush or bill clinton or george h.w. bush .
>> in fact, george h.w. bush said to us it's the one place we can go when we don't have to explain anything. these guys spend the rest of their lives, sometimes 30 years, trying to account, strangers come up to them, why did you do that, do this, and they're constantly trying to explain themselves. those guys know how hard it is.
>> we have a picture of jimmy carter here pushed off to the side. a lot of people talked about that. you all say that president carter was difficult.
>> maybe he stepped off to the side.
>> but that he was also helpful in this book. and i also notice something in him, the inaugural festivities this last time. he seemed to have a joy about him that i haven't really seen in a long time. actually heartened me to see that.
>> he was very upbeat that day. he was also the southeastern president on the dais because president bush did not come.
>> and by the way, i think he's just as happy to be separated from the other presidents as other presidents are happy to be separated from him.
>> but as much as they complain about him, they all the used him they all realized a little bit of a risk there, he might go off script there, but they used him on missions that they didn't think anyone else would have as good a chance of accomplishing.
>> i was just going to say, the clinton global initiative , it got its start because jimmy carter , jimmy carter foresaw something that the post-presidency was capable of doing that nobody else saw.
>> he's the john the baptist here. he's the one who says this is just a good career move being president. you can have a whole second life in some ways just as effective. longer innings. these guys are now all global rock stars after the white house .
>> in some ways more effective.
>> carter says i was a better ex-president than i was a president.
>> i think it was fascinating. i was looking at, nixon reviewed ike and dick this past weekend. that tortured relationship. i did not care for nixon , and yet there was a scene in that book where ike is taking kissinger to the said, basically scolding him, you betrayed him, you left him out in the cold. and all of these presidents seem -- ex-presidents seem to come around and are defensive of those, even if he attacked them.
>> what's so remarkable with those two is you end up at the very end of eisenhowerer's life with his grandson marrying nixon 's daughter. we had a club wedding. and eisenhower, like the others, one his last conversations with nixon was him saying, i'm yours to command. and nixon said that to reagan. i'm yours to command.
>> did you get the idea ike liked nixon ?
>> did you get that sense?
>> i think what was so terrible -- jeffrey frank shows this -- what was so maddening for nixon is nixon didn't matter to him anymore than a lieutenant matters to a four- star general . he always saw him as a lieutenant. he always saw him as his underling. and ike never thought twice about playing bridge at camp david with some of the post powerful men in the world and told dick to walk the trails. never once invited him there. it was a really complex relationship. but you've heard that expression that hate is not the opposite of love. indifference is the opposite of love. that's i think what happened here.
>> all right. "the presidents club " is now out in paperback. michael duffy and nancy gibbs, thank you for being back on the show. up next, thousands gary on washington's national mall to call on president obama to reject the keystone