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White House: Confidential Paperback – April, 1998

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In the introduction to this book on presidential sinners and scofflaws, Greg Stebben poses the following questions: "Are we, the people, really this callous? Petty? Shallow? Or easily amused?" Stebben and his coauthor, Jim Morris, are betting that we, the people, are all of the above. This book is packed with trashy tidbits and lighthearted hearsay. Although the authors admit that "this work contains absolutely no groundbreaking or earth-shattering new research on the behavior of presidents past or present," much of this "information" will be new to many readers. Most people probably have an inkling that John F. Kennedy had an extramarital affair or two, but may not know that Richard Nixon once worked as a carnival barker. According to Stebben and Morris, President Calvin Coolidge enjoyed having petroleum jelly slathered on his head while he ate breakfast in bed; Coolidge believed it was good for his health. Some factoids in this book are fun; others are just factoids. For example, it was not astonishing to learn that Ronald Reagan believes that knocking on wood is good luck. The authors devote chapters of the book to presidential scandals, tempers, fatalities, and money problems. A presidential "scorecard" near the middle of the book shows readers at a glance which presidents cheated on their wives and who their mistresses were. Stebben and Morris rank the presidents according to their entertainment value, which makes Warren Harding a winner and George Washington a big loser in their book. Harding had mistresses, scandals, and a corruption-ridden administration; Washington was noble. The authors' central point is that presidential eccentricity and scandal are not a new development but have been part of the history of the presidency all along. --Jill Marquis

Product Details

  • Paperback: 275 pages
  • Publisher: Cumberland House Publishing; 1 edition (April 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1888952687
  • ISBN-13: 978-1888952681
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 7.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,250,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on February 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
To: Gregg Stebben, Co-author of "White House: Confidential...The Little Book of Weird Presidential History."
A thank you.
I had to write to you about your new book. I bought it last Friday, the day of the Senate vote on Clinton's impeachment.... and thought it might lift my spirits over this whole presidential debaucle.
I found your little book at the Princeton Bookstore for $11 [it seemed to be the only book not on sale that day]... and I needed a little humor in my life. I was on a business trip to New Jersey [where I was born] and visited some old, historic places of my ancestors and found myself in Princeton buying your book.
I am a scientist and historian and love interesting stories and trivia about well-known people... presidents included. Your book was wonderfully funny and a joy to read. It was.... what we call in Texas... "a hoot" [Check with your co-author, Jim Morris, for interpretation of this expression].
Every page... a surprise. Some of the stories I had heard, but enjoyed your unique commentary written in clear, conversational English.
I rarely read an author's acknowledgments, but I read yours... much to my delight. I thank all those people who encouraged you to complete it and I thank you and Jim for adding it to my shelf.
Most of us in college took American History, but I suggest that you offer a course surrounding the stories in your book.... maybe American History 101a "Weird Presidential History". It might turn some students on to history ...or anthropology ...or even religion.
In any case, thanks again.
Barry A. Schlech, Ph.D.
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Format: Paperback
Everyone is looking for some sort of trivia on each president, and everyone is writing a book about it. White House Confidential is no exception. What makes this book different, however, is the way the author put things, in a clear and concise manner, easy to read.
I found the book to very easy to read and quite enjoyable. I was treated to several amazing, yet humorous stories of presidents of the past. You'll find the writers ability to convey an objective point of view to be refreshing in this day of political bashing books.
White House Confidential takes you into the private lives of the Oval Office and shows you that what we see today could and did happened in administrations of the past. This book was insightful and allowed me to look at the presidency a little differently.
From Washington to Jefferson to FDR and Bill Clinton, you'll find yourself reading about the lives of those who have held the highest office and those who held a secret place outside the office. The book... would make a great gift for any occasion. Overall a great read!
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Format: Paperback
This is a compilation of presidential facts, figures, vignettes, scandals and sexual peccadillos that span the nation's history. If it proves nothing else, it proves that presidents are just people -- with flaws like the rest of us. Few are spared, and those that are, do not always fit the norm either.

How well we know about JFK and his harem, or Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, FDR and Eleanor, Ike and Kay Summersby, or even Jimmy Carter lusting only in his heart, but who would have thunk that even Richard Milhous Nixon had a girl friend? Yes, he had a multi-year affair with a Chinese named Marianna Liu. Nixon's scandalous sex-capade gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "opening up new routes to China?" Or equally, who would have imagined that James Buchannan and Vice President William Rufus Vane King was a homosexual pair -- carrying out their trysts in the White house, and were known affectionately as "Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy?

At once, crudely salacious, funny, and apparently well researched (see for instance page 54, incredibly it got exactly right the only event of which I had any first hand knowledge of: regarding Amb. Louis Fields revelations in his book about GHW Bush's tryst with Jennifer Fitzgerald while on a trip to Geneva in 1984. Lou and Kitty Field's, both of whom were close friends of Barbara Bush, were greatly shook over the arrangements they were requested to make that put GWH and Ms. Fitzgerald in a chalet on the sunny side of lac le monde in bedrooms with an adjoining door?)

Even though all of the entries to the book are based on secondary sources; and the book's organization suffers, since it is organized like a tabloid newspaper, it nevertheless has its high and low points.

For one who is unashamed to admit that I read the National Enquirer from time to time, any one who loves history, or loves hearing what the "other side" is doing, will have great fun reading this compilation. Four stars.
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By A Customer on September 24, 1998
Format: Paperback
We cannot tell a lie. George Washington was not America's first president.
It was a guy named John Hanson.
In a new book on weird presidential trivia, "White House: Confidential", journalists Gregg Stebben and Jim Morris prove that Hanson called the shots before the wig-wearing cherry-tree chopper. They even produce quotes from Washington and Thomas Jefferson acknowledging Hanson as the first president.
How is this possible? It's because Hanson was sworn into office under the Articles of Confederation, which predates the Constitution by eight years (actually, he was the first of seven pre-Washington presidents). Moreover, Hanson apparently did a bang-up job.
During his one-year term, the Maryland native launched a postal service, chartered a national bank, created the Treasury Department and--according to some historians--declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. Hanson also handled the awkward task of shrinking the U.S. Army and informing its soldiers that the government couldn't afford to pay them for work already done.
When the militia threatened a coup d'etat, every member of the Continental Congress fled--except Hanson, who stayed behind and negotiated a settlement. Now, Stebben and Morris say Hanson deserves proper recognition. We vote for putting his face on the dollar bill or renaming the nation's capital Hanson, D.C. But Stebben and Morris are willing to settle for Congress passing a law that orders schools to teach about the "real" first president.
Of course, their motives aren't purely historical. If the movement is successful, it could mean another national holiday.
-- Roy Rivenburg, LA Times
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