Witty assessment of President Bush

2008-05-21 00:00

It’s a truth almost universally acknowledged that George W Bush has made an awful hash of the U.S. presidency, so another catalogue of his failings in office is not, at first glance, an enticing prospect. But this concise, penetrating and witty assessment of the 43rd president, by the accomplished editor of the online magazine Slate, is in a class of its own — and well worth reading. Weisberg starts from the premise that Bush — whom he professes not to dislike as a person — has been a disaster, and sets out to explain how so manifestly ill-equipped a person ever got to the White House, and what possessed him to put his country in its present predicament. Likening the Bush presidency to a plane crash, he prises open the black box in search of answers — and finds them primarily in Bush’s family relationships, his upbringing and his limited range of interests.

To understand the Bush presidency, the author argues (using as his archetype Shakespeare’s feckless Prince Hal, who became the warrior king Henry V), one needs to understand first the conflicting influences on the young W of his two strong-minded but vastly different patriarchs: Prescott Bush, the sober, upstanding senator and role model for George H. W. Bush (the 41st president) and George Herbert Walker, a roistering gambler from St Louis whose daughter Dotty was 41’s mother.

Richard Steyn

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