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Monday, May 12, 2008

The Bush Tragedy

Jacob Weisberg must thank his lucky stars every day that George W. Bush became the forty-third president of the United States because first he was able to cash in with a series of junk books on “Bushisms” and is now playing armchair shrink with a real book in which he claims to have gotten into Bush’s mind to the extent that he can explain every major decision made in the White House during the last eight years. Even better he claims to understand the motivation of pretty near every decision Bush has made since he was a boy. That would indeed be a remarkable achievement if it were to be believed.

Amateur psychoanalysis aside, The Bush Tragedy is an interesting biography of George W. Bush primarily because of the amount of time and research spent on the Walker side of Bush’s family tree. While the Bush and Walker families had much in common, Weisberg points out that their differences are more important than their similarities, much as was the case when the Kennedy and Fitzgerald families merged. The Bush family, as headed by Prescott Bush, was a modest one that did not believe in flashing, or wasting, its wealth. Prescott Bush’s ideals demanded that he treat others as equals and that his wealth be as hidden as possible while he and his family lived its relatively frugal lifestyle. Other than money, the Walkers seem to have had little in common with the Bush family. The Walker family, as headed by George Herbert Walker, was a flamboyant one never afraid to display its wealthy lifestyle to the rest of the world, a family that thrived on the acquisition of all of the toys, estates and hired help that fit the image it had of itself; an aggressive, impatient and class-conscious family.

George H.W. Bush, by all outward appearances and temperament, is very much a Bush as he demonstrated during his four years in office, a period during which he was usually cautious, open to counsel and not afraid to change his mind. George W. Bush, on the other hand, seems to have more the personality of a Walker than that of a Bush, traits that can be observed in the way he has run his own presidency: impatience, aggressiveness, personal certainty and the preference for action over time spent on careful analysis.

Weisberg covers all of the main players in the Bush administration and ably illustrates the ways that men like Cheney, Rumsfeld and other neoconservatives have been able to influence George W. Bush to attain their own goals. Others, such as Karl Rove, Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell, come across as weaker characters that either worked to stay on Bush’s good side or found themselves actually conforming their own core beliefs to fit those of the President. Of all the main players, Powell seems to be the one to have been most isolated and taken into the inner circle only when he was needed for some specific task.

The Bush Tragedy has much to offer despite its overdependence on psychobabble and Shakespeare to explain the mind of George W. Bush. Weisberg’s theories may be interesting, but they are only theories, and the real meat of his book is found in its biographical details and its look at the inner-workings of the Bush White House. There is much there that will be new to casual followers of political history and that makes the book a worthwhile one.

Rated at: 3.0
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