When it came to working through foreign policy in George W. Bush's White House, former national security advisor Stephen Hadley says a little cheese dip and soda pop always "sweetened people's dispositions."
During the last three years in the Bush administration, Hadley began hosting what he affectionately called "Tuesday afternoon snack time" where principals, including Vice President Dick Cheney, would gather to discuss the hot topics of the week.
"We would walk through the most difficult issues, and we would air all the disagreements. And at the end somebody would say, usually the vice president 'This has been a great discussion. Now, we need to have it in front of the president.' And, we would," said Hadley during a recent discussion of U.S. foreign policy-making under several presidents.
Like other modern-day presidents, Hadley told an audience during a Smithsonian Associates event that Bush was not a "memo man," neither in reading or writing them, but preferred direct interaction before making a decision.
"The president's the decider," Hadley said.
And, to make sure people in the administration understood, Hadley says when the president would ask him to call up the secretary of state or secretary of defense to tell them what he had decided, Hadley would protest. [GOP Public Support for Iranian Opposition Harmful]
"I would say 'No Mr. President. You've got a phone right there, and it goes right to the secretary of state. You need to tell the secretary of state so they know it comes from you. ... You call [Condi Rice] yourself."
Bill Clinton had a different style. Former Clinton national security aide James Steinberg told the Smithsonian crowed that Clinton wanted the lively discussion played out right in front of him.
"It won't surprise anyone that President Clinton liked to be part of the conversation," he said.
Steinberg said Clinton was always playing devil's advocate even if everyone had come to a consensual decision.
"He was inherently suspicious. If you came to a consensus, he would then argue the opposite. He wanted to test it, he wanted to hear what the thinking was behind it. In general he wanted to understand the thinking. It was a very interactive process," Steinberg said.
Henry Kissinger, who also spoke on the panel, said Nixon preferred to read through the information himself rather than discuss it at length.
"Nixon knew an enormous amount on foreign policy. It was his hobby, he studied it, he traveled," Kissinger says. "He had ideas. He knew what he wanted."
Kissinger says Nixon even gave orders through memos. "He did not like to order someone to do something that he knew that person didn't want to do. So he would prefer to do that by memo," Kissinger said.
As far as Obama, little was said of the current president other than he is a "voracious reader of intelligence information," according to former Rep. Jane Harman who served on the House intelligence committee.