Mr. & Mrs. President: From the Trumans to the Clintons
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Mr. and Mrs. President: From the Trumans to the Clintons–Second Edition, Revised (University Press of Kansas, April 2000)
It began with Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. It accelerated with Hack and Jackie Kennedy. Lady Bird and Lyndon Johnson became partners in office and Nancy and Ronnie seemed joined at the hip. Without question, the presidential couple has arrived as a force in politics. Yet surprisingly, the electorate is not happy about it.
The emergence of the presidential couple is one of the most important and contentious developments in America’s postwar political history. Its citizens’ reaction to the First Couple reflects the country’s changing morality, its uncertain attitude toward feminism, and the increasing power of the media. Gil Troy traces these shifts through ten presidential marriages, from the homesick tensions between Harry and Bess Truman to the very public scandals endured by Bill and Hillary Clinton. Along the way, readers learn of Mamie Eisenhower’s perseverance on her husband’s campaign trail, Gerald Ford’s embarrassment over Betty’s outspoken honesty, and the amazing political success of Nancy and Ronald Reagan’s partnership in office. With a new chapter devoted to Hillary and Bill Clinton’s tainted partnership in office and to our present First Lady’s senatorial ambitions, this edition of Gil Troy’s Mr. and Mrs. President offers fresh insights into America’s paradoxical expectations for its presidential wives and husbands.
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Affairs of State: The Rise and Rejection of the Presidential Couple since World War II (Free Press, January 1997)
The emergence of the presidential couple is one of the most important and contentious developments in America’s postwar political history. After the exceptional Roosevelts, the change began innocently enough, with Mamie becoming the first First Lady to remain on the campaign trail without her husband – receiving nothing but praise as a result. By the 1960s, with Lady Bird lobbying for legislation on TV, the first signs of protest appeared. In the 1970s, when Jerry and Betty Ford increased East Wing staffing and press coverage, the idea of the presidential couple was institutionalized, but Betty became so controversial she may have cost Jerry his chances for election. With Hillary Clinton, the backlash can no longer be denied. Though Bill announced during his first campaign that the country would be getting “two for the price of one,” by his second he and Hillary appeared to have learned a painful lesson. She had morphed into Nancy Reagan, speaking out for children’s issues, loyally supporting her husband, and denying any interest or role in policymaking. As Gil Troy points out, the most successful recent couple has been the Bushes, who modeled themselves after an older generation. The lesson is clear: First Ladies can be far more helpful than ever before with image-making, but not with substantive legislative or managerial functions. The country does not want an un-impeachable, un-removable partner to take a politically active role.