Reviews for Life After Power

by Jared Cohen

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A survey of the rewarding post-term afterlives of seven U.S. presidents. “Between their last day in office and their last day on earth, former presidents have a finite amount of time to make their marks upon the world,” writes Cohen, an executive at Goldman Sachs. This follow-up to Accidental Presidents focuses on seven former presidents who made the most of their remaining time. In some cases, their post-term accomplishments far exceeded those made in office, greatly enhancing their legacies. Thomas Jefferson’s years of political service, including two presidential terms, were less satisfying to him than his dream of designing and establishing the University of Virginia. John Quincy Adams’ second act as a House Representative provided him with a platform to lead the abolitionist movement. Grover Cleveland became the only president who, after leaving office, would later serve another term. Lackluster one-term presidents William Howard Taft and Herbert Hoover had more success later, as well: Taft served as chief justice of the Supreme Court for a decade, and Hoover’s post–World War II humanitarian efforts eclipsed his notoriously unpopular presidential term during the early years of the Great Depression. Cohen’s recent examples are Jimmy Carter, who “transformed being a former into a platform” in what is the lengthiest post-term period to date, tirelessly attending to altruistic causes throughout the world, and George W. Bush, who chose to remove himself from politics altogether, which increased his approval rating and allowed him to dedicate time to personal pursuits such as painting. The author packs this expansive sweep of presidential history with enough storytelling verve and grounded research to legitimize these presidents’ underrepresented post-term stories. Cohen effectively proves that, for these seven men, “life doesn’t end with the job that will be the first line of their obituaries.” An engaging dip into the history of the presidency. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.