Bush Tragedy

Bush Tragedy

3.5 2
by Jacob Weisberg

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This is the book that cracks the code of the Bush presidency. Unstintingly yet compassionately, and with no political ax to grind, Slate editor in chief Jacob Weisberg methodically and objectively examines the family and circle of advisers who played crucial parts in George W. Bush’s historic downfall.

In this revealing and defining portrait, Weisberg


This is the book that cracks the code of the Bush presidency. Unstintingly yet compassionately, and with no political ax to grind, Slate editor in chief Jacob Weisberg methodically and objectively examines the family and circle of advisers who played crucial parts in George W. Bush’s historic downfall.

In this revealing and defining portrait, Weisberg uncovers the “black box” from the crash of the Bush presidency. Using in-depth research, revealing analysis, and keen psychological acuity, Weisberg explores the whole Bush story. Distilling all that has been previously written about Bush into a defining portrait, he illuminates the fateful choices and key decisions that led George W., and thereby the country, into its current predicament. Weisberg gives the tragedy a historical and literary frame, comparing Bush not just to previous American leaders, but also to Shakespeare’s Prince Hal, who rises from ne’er-do-well youth to become the warrior king Henry V.

Here is the bitter and fascinating truth of the early years of the Bush dynasty, with never-before-revealed information about the conflict between the two patriarchs on George W.’s father’s side of the family–the one an upright pillar of the community, the other a rowdy playboy–and how that schism would later shape and twist the younger George Bush; his father, a hero of war, business, and Republican politics whose accomplishments George W. would attempt to copy and whose absences he would resent; his mother, Barbara, who suffered from insecurity, depression, and deep dissatisfaction with her role as housewife; and his younger brother Jeb, seen by his parents as steadier, stronger, and the son most likely to succeed.

Weisberg also anatomizes the replacement family Bush surrounded himself with in Washington, a group he thought could help him correct the mistakes he felt had destroyed his father’s presidency: Karl Rove, who led Bush astray by pursuing his own historical ambitions and transforming the president into a deeply polarizing figure; Dick Cheney, whose obsessive quest to restore presidential power and protect the country after 9/11 caused Bush and America to lose the world’s respect; and, finally, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice, who encouraged Bush’s foreign policy illusions and abetted his flight from reality.

Delving as no other biography has into Bush’s religious beliefs–which are presented as at once opportunistic and sincere–The Bush Tragedy is an essential work that is sure to become a standard reference for any future assessment. It is the most balanced and compelling account of a sitting president ever written.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Michael Getler
…we may never know to what extent George W. Bush, who famously labeled himself "the decider," consciously sees himself as the "anti-Poppy"—the opposite of his cautious, deliberative, internationalist father. But The Bush Tragedy is a serious, thought-provoking effort to penetrate what instinct tells us must be an extraordinary family drama. This is not a book of extensive original reporting. Rather, it is one of analysis built upon much that has already been reported, and much that is observable but not so often reported.
—The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
The Bush Tragedy…provide[s] a provocative and plausible account of the evolution of his political beliefs while doing a far more persuasive job of marshaling evidence to make a Freudian case for the younger Mr. Bush's missteps than other recent efforts…All in all, this is a book that seeks not to uncover exactly what went wrong with the Bush administration, but a book, like Freud's famous case studies, that seeks to come up with an explanation for what happened, presenting an argument for how a consensus-seeking, moderate-centrist governor in Texas evolved into a highly polarizing president wedded to his base, and how a candidate who said he believed in a humble foreign policy and opposed the use of troops for nation building became the president who has presided over the invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq.
—The New York Times
Alan Brinkley
⅒an intelligent and illuminating book. It takes much of what we already know and uses it to create a mostly persuasive account of the character and behavior of a man whom many observers have already called the most disastrous president in our history.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly

Framing the Bush administration as a Shakespearean tragedy, Weisberg provides an intriguing interpretation of Bush and his motivations thus far. Part armchair therapist and part literary critic, Weisberg chips away at the various public and private personalities Bush has presented over the years to demonstrate his insecurities. Examining his relationships to family and friends as well as isolating particular lines of dialogue as key insights into Bush's true nature, Weisberg keenly illustrates how Bush's insecurities have played out on a global scale. Weisberg also juxtaposes Bush within his family legacy, by drawing comparisons between his style of leadership with those on the Walker side of the family. In his deep voice, Robertson Dean provides an enjoyable performance that works well with Weisberg's prose. His deliberate cadence and well-placed emphasis makes the narration easy to follow and understand. Dean projects power and energy and is sure to have listeners looking for other audiobooks he reads that offer more narrative prose. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover. (Jan.)

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Meet the Author

Jacob Weisberg is the editor in chief of Slate. He previously worked for The New Republic and was a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, and a columnist for the Financial Times. Weisberg is the inventor of the “Bushisms” series. He is also the author, with Robert Rubin, of In an Uncertain World. Weisberg’s first book, In Defense of Government, was published in 1996.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Bush Tragedy 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm 68, thus observed both Bush presidency's in 'live-time'.  The Senior appeared to be a dignified, intelligent, elder  statesman, having a good heart - but, entering that office surrounded by poor advisors and often even  less acceptible/poorly-prepared, self-important cabinet members.  The Junior - so much to say...but, my mother's  admonition...'if you can't say anything nice...." haunts me here.  The Junior - of course, should never have been encouraged by anyone to even contemplate running for the Presidency.  Thinking of him as Governor of Texas is even a head-shaker when one looks back.   I wish Jr. no harm and, have compassion for his family through all this- all that was brought to light here re George Jr... growing-up; prep schools, college(s), attitude, personality, self-worth...ahh but then it comes back  to lack of self-worth, going way, way back.   I'm glad I read this book and... sad for the consequences it brought - and, still brings - to the family(s) and probably, many more.
glauver More than 1 year ago
The author uses rather pat psych ideas to explain the failure of the W. Presidency. The book is interesting, but far from being the final word on Bush. For that we need serious historians picking through the doccuments of the Bush-Cheney years, not half-baked theroy.Let us hope that happens soon.