Author reveals inside look at White House relationships

Kate Andersen Brower, a former White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, has written three books that give behind-the-scenes glimpses of those who lived and worked at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Brower shared her collection of anecdotes and stories she gathered from interviews and research as part of the Hauenstein Center’s Presidents’ Day Celebration on February 21 at the DeVos Center, Loosemore Auditorium on the Grand Rapids Pew Campus. 

Brower’s three books focus on the relationships among presidents and three groups: the service staff, the first ladies and the vice presidents. A fourth book, “Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump,” reveals the friendships and occasional tensions that arise among the former presidents. 

“One quote from Eisenhower really resonated with me,” Brower said. “He said, ‘This country is far more important than any of us.’ That is the point of the fourth book. 

“While the former presidents are very different in their philosophies, how they lived their lives and how they got to the pinnacle of power, they all strongly believe in the country, a peaceful transfer of power and the Constitution. There’s a sense that they are bound together.” 

Author Kate Andersen Brower discusses her three books focused on the behind the scenes of the White House.
Author Kate Andersen Brower addresses audience members during the Hauenstein Center's Presidents' Day Celebration on February 21.
Image credit - Emily Zoldaz

In her research for her book on the first ladies, “First Women: The Grace & Power of America's Modern First Ladies,” Brower said she developed an affinity for Betty Ford and her strength.

After Ford was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974, the White House communications staff wanted to issue a news release saying the first lady was having a health problem. Ford was adamant that her diagnosis be shared. 

“She’s probably my favorite first lady because of what she did after she left the White House with the Betty Ford Center, but also what she did to make people aware of the importance of getting mammograms,” Brower said. “That fact that she did that saved countless lives and people started getting mammograms. That’s pretty phenomenal.” 

Brower also discussed the deep, unlikely friendship that developed between former presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. When the two opposed each other in the 1976 presidential election, there was intense animosity between the two, said Brower.

“Ford said that Carter seemed cold and arrogant and even egotistical, and that they were like oil and water,” said Brower. 

The friendship began to emerge as the two were part of the American delegation to attend the funeral of Egyptian president Anwar Sdt. On the 18-hour trip home, the two bonded over their shared experiences as a president. 

“They grew so close that Carter said when they went to events together, they rode in the same car and they hated that once they got to an event because it meant their conversation was done,” said Brower.

Their friendship was so strong that they each asked the other to give the eulogy at their respective funerals. 

“In Carter’s eulogy at Ford’s funeral he said, ‘You learn a lot about a man when you run against him for president, and when you stand in his shoes and assume the responsibilities that he has borne so well,’” said Brower. 

“‘Perhaps even more after you both laid down the burdens of high office and work together in a nonpartisan spirit of patriotism and service. Jerry and I frequently agreed that one of the greatest blessings that we had after we left the White House during the last quarter century was the intense personal friendship that bound us together.’”


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