I have been intrigued about how George Bush was not only elected once, but re-elected as US president. So, in a bored moment, I bought The Bush Tragedy: The Unmaking of a President. It promised much,and is worth a read, but cutting to the chase, it was fascinating but fairly distorted … not by lack of trying, but by trying too hard. Everything was force fitted into a mould that had some truth in it, but was pushed too far. In a little more detail, the backstory was fascinating, the early years likewise, and you can certainly see how his thesis of a man who wants to emulate his father’s course, but also draw sharp contrast and be thought of as his own man. Having done this groundwork, it felt like the period of the presidency was skated over, and through the lens of folks like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. Even here it paints only a sketch of Condi Rice who feels an intruiging figure who, from the little I know, I thought should have been smart enough to provide a more guiding hand. The books written fairly well, but nothing like as well as one might interpret from the reviews.
So, one of the things I was left wondering was how it got the rave reviews it did on the cover – e.g the front cover has a quote from Malcolm Gladwell (he of ‘The tipping point’) – “Political drama, family history and psychological insight in dazzling combination. If you read one book about George W. Bush and his presidency, this should be it”. That would be the same Malcolm Gladwell thanked in the Acknowledgements for his ‘keen insights and editorial suggestions’ would it? And, the one who dwelt on Jacob’s mother Lois extensively within ‘The Tipping Point’ (e.g. see New Yorker Article he wrote here). So, hardly the disinterested observer that you might imagine.
But, he’s in good company, since Jacob also thanks Joe Klein (Author of ‘Primary Colors’) for the benefits that have come from conversations with him (and others) … and Joe turns up on the back cover saying ‘Scorching, powerful and entirely plausible … a beautifully written and erudite book, hilarious at times, a joy to read’. In terms of general reviews we have ‘A serious, thought-provoking effort to penetrate what instinct tells us muct be an extraordinary family drama’ from the Washington Post. Jacob is editor-in-chief of Slate Group, a division of The Washington Post Company in which I must presume the Washington Post is stabled. Maybe it’s an innocent connection, but after two spun connections, I am a little skeptical.