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Lindsay Chervinsky's Five Best Books on Presidential Cabinets

Days of Fire

By Peter Baker (2013)

1. For the first few years of the Bush presidency, Dick Cheney served as George W. Bush’s closest adviser, the last person in the room before every big decision. The two were not close. But the interactions between them during the 9/11 terror attacks attest to the vice president’s authority. Mr. Cheney convinced the president to stay on Air Force One until they knew Washington, D.C., was safe, and when aides reported that United Flight 93 was headed toward Washington, Mr. Cheney gave the order to shoot the plane down if necessary. During Mr. Bush’s second term, he seemed to distance himself from Mr. Cheney, a schism made permanent when he refused to pardon Mr. Cheney’s former chief of staff, Scooter Libby, who had been convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. Nonetheless, upon Mr. Bush’s return to Texas at the end of his presidency, Mr. Cheney succeeded in ignoring whatever resentments he felt and delivered a gracious speech, one that doubtless came as a relief to many of those present.

Team of Rivals

By Doris Kearns Goodwin (2005)

2. In 1860, after Abraham Lincoln secured the nomination and the electoral victory, he selected his former Republican Party rivals, almost all more famous and experienced than he, for cabinet positions. Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book reveals the new president’s way of managing the personalities and conflicting ambitions in his cabinet by extending special effort on each man. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles resented the influence of Secretary of State William Seward and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Welles griped that “not unfrequently, [Stanton] has a private conference with the President in the corner of the room, or with Seward in the library.” Recognizing Welles’s envy, Lincoln took special care to “often catch up with his ‘Neptune’ on the pathway leading from the White House to the War and Navy Departments.” In tense cabinet meetings, Lincoln tried to lighten the mood with self-deprecating humor, samples of which the book supplies. “Team of Rivals” shaped the popular image of the presidency and the cabinet, and in a way few books have matched.


Camelot’s Court

By Robert Dallek (2013)


The Brothers

By Stephen Kinzer (2013)


The Black Cabinet

By Jill Watts (2020)

Read entire article at Wall Street Journal