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The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House Hardcover – August 10, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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From Booklist

*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

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Center Street; 1St Edition edition (August 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599957345
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599957340
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #376,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Since Harry Truman more than a half century ago, Billy Graham has been the private minister to 11 U.S. Presidents. In poor health and recovering from the death of his beloved wife, Ruth, earlier this summer, Mr. Graham seems to be ending this private ministry by going public and being interviewed for this book. Never before has he spoken of his relationships with different Presidents and there is a lot he withheld for reasons of confidentiality, especially of the living Presidents. He had a knack for befriending politicians on the rise and tending to their spiritual needs.

There is a photo section of Mr. Graham with each President. The authors are editors of Time magazine -- their writing is concise and clear. Their research (who met who when, the religious background of each President, ect.) is considerable. All in all, a must read for political junkies and Billy Graham fans.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book as interesting as "Just As I Am" was tedious.

The insights are countless:
* Harry Truman hated Graham
* Eisenhower's bland civil religion policies may have obscured some real spiritaul awakening during his presidency.
* LBJ considered Graham one of his best friends. He would phone Graham in the middle of the night to come to the White House bedroom to kneel and pray with him. Long after LBJ left office and was demonized by both Republicans and Democrats, Graham regularly visited him on his ranch. Graham was truly a pastor to him.
* Nixon used and manipulated Graham, but also cared about him. The "Two Nixon" portrait rings true.
* JFK was thoroughly secular and was amused but fairly disinterested in Graham. JFK once asked him why Protestants believed in a 2nd Coming while his own Catholics did not. Graham gently reminded JFK that the 2nd Coming was a part of the Apostles' Creed and Catholic dogma.
* Carter despised Graham. Not surprising, given that Carter's theology is not remotely evangelical and that Carter liked very, very few people in general.

I ended up respectinga nd liking Graham more AND less as a result of this book. Most horrifying was to learn more of his almost complete lack of ecclesiology. To him the Church seems to have value only as an instrument to bring people into a personal relationship with Christ. There is no sense of the centrality of community, or how the Church is not the means but the end. So when Graham sees Nixon criticized for starting Sunday worship inisde the White House, Graham's response is "Mr. President, the critics are pastors who fear peopel worshipping outside church.
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Format: Hardcover
I`ll be honest with you--I don't have the emotional attachment to Billy Graham I sometimes feel I'm supposed to have as a Christian and as a Baptist. I grew up in a tradition that rarely acknowledged him (or much of the outside evangelical world, for that matter) and, to be honest, I knew very little of him until relatively recently. In my younger days I knew him more for his compromises than for his strengths; for his ecumenism, by way of example, more than his evangelism. I saw him preach once at a massive Toronto crusade, but was more interested in the proceedings than in the sermon. So when I received a copy of The Preacher and the Presidents I opened it interested in the history of the book more than in the subject.

Billy Graham must be unique in knowing eleven different Presidents and in sharing genuine friendships with nine (or ten) of them. From the time of Harry Truman all the way until the present day and the presidency of George W. Bush, Graham has been America's most widely known and widely respected preacher. He has served as pastor to most of the Presidents for almost half a century. This book, authored by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, editors at TIME, tells the story of Billy Graham in the White House--of Billy Graham's remarkable friendships with these Presidents. I begins with Truman and ends with George W. Bush. Each President receives a chapter or a number of chapters detailing how the life of Billy Graham intersected with his life.

Rather than relay how Graham interacted with each of the Presidents, I thought it might make sense to simply relay a few of the points that I found most interesting.

* I found it interesting that several of the Presidents seemed to use Graham for their own purposes.
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Format: Hardcover
Billy Graham, whose evangelistic missions have circled the globe and brought relief to millions of people, is as American as apple pie and motherhood - an icon whose personal struggles with illness and loss and his forebearance in the face of those challenges has been an inspiration to many of us. It's hard to speak of religion and America, without the name Billy Graham coming up.

Perhaps not as well known yet made clear in this book, Billy Graham has personally ministered to 11 American presidents through the years. It's amazing to read about the reach of this man, and to contemplate the affect that he's had on the course of history.

This book, while definitely not a "tell-all", is chockful of interesting tidbits of meetings with movers and shakers, and reveals the authors' commitment to a well-researched and well written book on one of the most interesting living Americans.

Whether you agree with Mr. Graham's religious beliefs or not, you will find this a fascinating book about a well-intentioned, highly committed religious leader whose reach and influence may very well have colored some of the decisions made by US presidents over the years. This is definitely a story of one of the "Men behind the Man".
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