Thursday, June 12, 2008


SHAWN MACOMBER, AMERICAN SPECTATOR - I learned so much reading The Cult of the Presidency, which seeds a very good history of the office with a slew of beautiful, strange and at times frightening anecdotes ? a humble President Cleveland answering thhe White House phone personally, LBJ having a hydraulic throne installed in Air Force One "he could raise or lower to achieve the appropriate level of intimacy or intimidation," the various uses and misuses of the CIA and FBI. Were there any stories or factoids that particularly shocked you during your research?

GENE HEALY, AUTHOR: The anecdotes I prefer are the polar opposite of the Wise, Compassionate Leader parables you often hear on Sunday morning talk shows. I prefer stories like the one (from Robert Dallek's biography of LBJ, Flawed Giant), where in a private oval office meeting in 1967, asked by a reporter why America was in Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson unzipped his fly, wagged the presidential member at his audience, and exclaimed "This is why!" I find that little story hilarious, horrifying, and, er, revealing: The president as Great Ape atop the world's most important primate hierarchy. It tells you something about how the office magnifies the personality flaws of the bizarre people who are willing to do what it takes to get there, with the result that you too often end up governed by a Narcissist with Nukes


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