Gary Ginsberg, author of First Friends

Published on19 AUG 2021

Gary Ginsberg, author of First Friends: The Powerful, Unsung (and Unelected) People Who Shaped Our Presidents, sat down with firm president John Waldron to share insights on seminal presidential friendships in American history.

On the friendship between President Thomas Jefferson and James Madison: Jefferson was larger than life, both in body and in personality. Madison was not only very quiet and timid and small, but he was also afraid to assert himself. And so they played off of each other. Jefferson needed Madison's exacting mind and his practical nature and Madison needed Jefferson's big, bold personality and idealism.  And they both fed off of that to create what I think are the most important – I mean, their friendship, if you really stop and think about it, resulted in the basic structures of our United States government today. 

On the origins of the friendship between President Richard Nixon and Bebe Rebozo: They meet on a houseboat that Bebe Rebozo takes Nixon out on in 1951, as a favor to a friend.  Nixon sits on the boat, to your point, does not hang out with anybody on the boat.  He just sits with his yellow legal pad.  He's wearing like long pants, button-down shirt, doesn't carouse with the group. Doesn't drink it. Doesn't fish. And at the end, Bebe Rebozo says to his friend, 'Never have this guy back on my boat. He's a complete dud.'  Nixon writes to Bebe, 'That was great.  I loved it.' And a friendship starts.


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The episode was recorded on August 11, 2021.

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