From Publishers Weekly
Over the course of seven decades, the Rev. Billy Graham befriended every occupant of the White House, from Harry Truman to George W. Bush. This expansive text draws on Graham's autobiographies, other biographies, presidential diaries and memoirs, and historical texts and documents to examine each of those relationships. Less about Graham himself—or the presidents he knew and advised—than about their interactions and alliances, the text is most likely to appeal to readers with previous knowledge of the subjects. Gibbs, a writer for Time
, and Duffy, an assistant managing editor at the magazine, maintain a balance between the political and the personal, featuring Graham's role counseling Eisenhower on civil rights, relating an anecdote about Graham and Johnson swimming in the White House pool and discussing Graham's influence on Hillary Clinton when her husband's infidelities were made public. They foreground Graham's difficulty in negotiating the separation between church and state, particularly during his friend Richard Nixon's 1960 campaign and Nixon's presidency; that friendship forms the centerpiece of this thoughtful book. Gibbs and Duffy marvelously dramatize Graham and Nixon's fraught, intimate relationship, so that some of the other presidents, particularly those who followed Nixon, seem undersketched by comparison. (Aug. 14)
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*Starred Review* Despite Kennedy-era bigots' fears, the only clergyman to visit the White House regularly has been a minister of the major Protestant denomination historically most committed to separation of church and state, the Baptists. Veteran Time staffers Gibbs and Duffy's sympathetic history of evangelist Billy Graham's relations with every U.S. president since Truman testifies that, although sorely tempted by intense interest in politics and political leadership, Graham crossed the line of that separation only in his friendship with Richard Nixon. When he realized Nixon's duplicity and his own susceptibility to political seduction, Graham determined to be strictly a spiritual counselor to political leaders. In that capacity, he earlier served Eisenhower and Johnson, and later, Reagan, both Bushes, and both Clintons, all of whom acknowledged deep appreciation (that he likewise counseled Nixon after the latter's downfall speaks volumes about Graham's character). Kennedy wasn't much interested, Ford infrequently consulted him, and Carter was sufficiently spiritually grounded not to resort to Graham's counsel. But called upon or not, Graham was always available to the president and always prayed for him. Gibbs and Duffy have done posterity immense (and very readable) service by chronicling Graham's devotion. Olson, Ray