Friends in High Places

President Franklin Pierce and Nathaniel Hawthorne (Brady-Handy Photograph Collection/Library of Congress)
First Friends: The Powerful, Unsung (And Unelected) People Who Shaped Our Presidents, by Gary Ginsberg (Twelve, 416 pp., $30)


irst ladies, first children, first siblings, and even first dogs have served as frequent grist for the mill in the (often bloated) presidential-journalistic-industrial complex, but to the best of Gary Ginsberg’s knowledge, no one has yet systematically explored first friends: those close White House companions who furnished counsel, support, and constructive criticism before, during, and after the presidency.

A longtime journalist, lawyer, and political strategist, and a veteran of the Clinton White House, Ginsberg sets out to chronicle “how a First Friendship — one of the most intimate relationships in a very public life — can provide insight into the president

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