Mar 3, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden tried to hire Jon Meacham, his volunteer muse

President Biden carries Jon Meacham's latest book aboard Air Force One in November. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden has grown so close to his volunteer muse, Jon Meacham, that he tried to bring the presidential historian into the White House.

Driving the news: Meacham is preparing to dive into the life of President Dwight Eisenhower for his next book. So a government gig doesn't appear to be in the cards — but the overture reflects their warm relationship.

Why it matters: As threats to American democracy rose, the theme became a Biden signature, with Meacham helping supply the rhetoric.

Meacham's 2018 bestseller, "The Soul of America," has driven a recurring theme for Biden, and echoed Biden's 2017 op-ed about the "soul of this nation." The president has used the phrases "soul of America" or "soul of this nation" in big addresses.

  • The two bonded over their shared belief that Biden is a historically consequential figure in the fight to preserve American democracy.

What's happening: Meacham joined Biden aides at Camp David to prepare last month's State of the Union.

  • A White House official didn't comment directly on Meacham joining the administration. The official said the president speaks to a wide range of historians about this unique moment in history.

Behind the scenes: Princeton historian Sean Wilentz recently joined Meacham in helping conceptualize some of Biden's speeches — particularly ones about democracy.

  • Last August, Wilentz was part of a two-hour Biden meeting with historians, who warned him the republic was at a tipping point.

The backstory: Meacham and POTUS began talking during Biden's 2008 presidential campaign, after he read Meacham's 2006 book, "American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation."

  • Meacham and his wife, Keith, attended the White House State Dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron in December.

In the weeks before last year's midterms, Biden was reading Meacham's new book on Abraham Lincoln, "And There Was Light."

  • The book details how the 16th president navigated a fraught transition of power at a critical moment in history.
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