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Inside the Oval Office: The White House Tapes from FDR to Clinton [MP3 CD]

William Doyle , Edward Lewis
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 1 2008
Since 1940, when the first experimental sound recording machine was planted in the Oval Office, almost every president has found some use for recording conversations and meetings, covertly or otherwise. William Doyle unearths these tapes from oblivion to present a flesh-and-blood drama of the presidency in action.
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Richard Nixon was not the first president to tape-record conversations inside the Oval Office--that was Franklin Roosevelt. Nor was he the last, although one would think after Nixon's disastrous experience with taping that the succeeding occupants of the White House would have learned better. Since they didn't, we have Inside the Oval Office, "a cockpit voice recorder of the presidency" written and compiled by William Doyle. Doyle combines transcripts of taped Oval Office conversations--from FDR to Bill Clinton--with his assessment of each president's executive abilities. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, for example, John F. Kennedy showed what Doyle calls a pragmatic leadership style: "self-control, a call for multiple opinions, the discipline to think several steps ahead, and the ability to put himself in 'the other guy's shoes.'"

Among the book's highlights: Franklin Roosevelt briefing cabinet members and congressional leaders after the bombing of Pearl Harbor; Dwight Eisenhower talking to the British prime minister during the Suez crisis; John F. Kennedy talking to Mississippi governor Ross Barnett during the fight over integration of the University of Mississippi; Lyndon Johnson meeting with military advisors about U.S. involvement in Vietnam; Richard Nixon talking with Chuck Colson about monitoring Henry Kissinger's calls to the press (and the "smoking gun" tapes in which Nixon discusses the Watergate cover-up with John Dean and H.R. Haldeman); and the transcripts of videotaped meetings held by Ronald Reagan on the Soviet Union. Anyone interested in history and the presidency will no doubt find Inside the Oval Office full of revealing and fascinating material. --Linda Killian --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Seven of the 11 U.S. presidents since the Depression have secretly recorded meetings and telephone conversations in the White House. Many of these recordings have been locked away in official archives, lost or forgotten. Doyle, who won a Writer's Guild award for a documentary on the same subject, uses these recordings to present an impressive, illuminating account of how presidents from FDR to Clinton managed the day-to-day operations of "the world's most dangerous office." Combining interviews, meticulous historical research and transcripts of the tapes themselves, Doyle peeks behind the wizard's curtain to show us the nation's chief executives at work: FDR thundering at the "damn Jap" who demanded that the U.S. evacuate Hawaii; Eisenhower sternly prodding the British prime minister to cease hostilities in the Suez; Johnson browbeating a senator into serving on the Warren Commission. We learn what time presidents woke up (in Truman's case, 5:30 a.m.), if they took naps (Reagan, every day) and what time they went to sleep (well past midnight for Johnson). We see them trading quips with the White House press corps and dispatching troops to international hot spots. We also see them digging their own graves, via Johnson and Nixon transcripts on Vietnam and Watergate. Doyle's running commentary on the transcripts provides a plethora of instructive and sometimes disheartening insights into the hidden machinery of the Oval Office. Quoth Bill Clinton: "I get treated like a mule. Whenever I'm at my desk I end up with these lists of people to call. I'm supposed to call every junior congressman about every vote.... I don't have time to think." Reading this book is a little like peering through a keyhole at history.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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A delegation of civil rights leaders was filing into the oval Office to push Franklin Roosevelt to embrace a radical,explosive, concept: integrate the armed forces of the United States. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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4.0 out of 5 stars Inside The Ultimate Cockpit March 31 2004
Format:Paperback
It's a little mindblowing to realize such a historical resource exists: Recordings of presidents in the Oval Office discussing matters of state, negotiating with world leaders, and offering often-candidly caustic opinions of their contemporaries.
While William Doyle's "Inside The Oval Office" is subtitled "The White House Tapes From FDR To Clinton," this is a misnomer. As others here point out, there's really only a trio of presidents that taped themselves at work with any regularity, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, and four more (Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Ford) that did so even at all. Reagan and Clinton both had video crews film some of their formal meetings, but Bush 41 and Carter avoided anything more involved than private diary tapings in recording the doings of their administrations.
Despite the uneven nature of this record, Doyle tries his best to analyze each president's administration from a purely executive-managerial level, sometimes using the tapes as a guide but just as often relying on contemporaneous accounts and even interviews with people who were in the room with the various chief executives. The result is some fascinating portraits in miniature of the vastly different leadership styles America have elected to its helm.
Doyle manages effective profiles of each man, but delivers the goods best on the ones, not surprisingly, who did the most taping. LBJ verbally bludgeons cowering senators to pass aggressive civil rights legislation and tells a pants manufacturer to give him some slacks with more room for his testicles, employing some decidedly earthy terminology in both instances. Kennedy and his Best and Brightest advisor team listen in on reports from Ole Miss while James Meredith is enrolled as a student there and the campus erupts into a combat zone.
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4.0 out of 5 stars NOT ABOUT RECORDINGS April 3 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
The "saskatoonguy" description of the book dated 24 April 01 pretty much nailed it on the head. The book is more about the personal and management styles of Presidents Roosevelt through Clinton. The reference to tape recordings is more of a come-on to attract readers. The recordings are more of a sidelight in this description of the administrative styles of the referenced presidents.
In fairness, though, recordings were used minimally by Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower and the post-Nixon administrations shied away from recordings as well (although video recordings of certain events started under President Reagan). Only Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon made extensive use tape recordings and the first two still exercised control over what was recorded -- a practice that Nixon did not adopt and later regretted. The most memorable examples used were a couple of Johnson's recordings. A somewhat humorous recording, in spite of the tragic circumstances, was President Johnson's arm twisting his mentor, Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, into serving on the Warren Commission. Senator Russell despised Earl Warren. The second was a meeting to determine whether the Administration would commit 200,000 more troops to Vietnam where President Johnson finally decided to reverse his policy and start pulling back from that unpleasant and costly adventure.
As for the descriptions of the administrations themselves, the book, in my opinion, is a testimonial to how too much emphasis is put on "qualifications" to be President. Each individual who has served in the Oval Office, including the current occupant and his successors, will have certain strengths and weaknesses that may prepare them well for the challenges that confront them, or not prepare them well at all.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Facinating content but lacked enough recordings Sept. 17 2001
Format:Audio Cassette
After reading and listening to "Taking Charge," which was about LBJ's secret tapes, I was expecting the audio version of "Inside the Oval Office" to use many more actual recordings. Instead, the reader reads transcripts of conversations. The tapes contain a few actual recordings but very few, about one per president. Inexplicably, it presents no actual recordings of Reagan, Bush or Clinton. This was a disappointment since I knew from listening to "Taking Charge" that actual recordings contain great insights into the men who inhabited the White House. A reader cannot possibly capture the nuances of language used by our 20th century presidents. There is a great difference between hearing a president's actual words and having them read from transcripts. However, the content of the book and audiotapes provide a facinating glimpse inside the oval office.
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Format:Hardcover
This is a terrific book and rewards the reader with insight into the modern presidency. It talks about each President's strengths and how each of them got themselves into trouble and it illustrates its points using each President's own words. Because it is less than 400 pages long it is hard for Doyle to support all the claims he makes, but it is still worth reading. More than that, it is worth owning and re-reading. The only reason I didn't give it five stars is that I think the book could have gone a bit deeper into each presidency without adding too much length. It was just a bit too much this side of a tourist's guide to each presidency.
But there are so many wonderful and new insights that I feel guilty for not giving it five stars. So, if you want, just imagine that I did give it the full five with this little caveat.
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