From the Publisher
"Herbert S. Parmet offers up a Theodore White-model of living history which, if not the final word on Bush's legacy, brings fresh insight to the three whys most often asked about his political rise and fall: (1) Why, despite telling friends of his "strong reservations" about Bush, did Ronald Reagan pick him as a vice presidential running mate in 1980; (2) Why, despite little personal knowledge of Dan Quayle, did Bush pick him as a vice presidential running mate eight years later; (3) Why, after his unqualified "Read my lips" pledge at the Republican convention that same year, did Bush become party to the Democratic-inspired tax increase of 1990?"
– American Spectator
"The first comprehensive biography, done by an independent historian but with the former president's blessing."
– Norman Ornstein, the Washington Post
CUNY professor Parmet had exclusive access to Bush's personal letters and journals for this biography.
NY Times Book Review
The first full-scale biography raises the question (which remains unresolved) of whether its subject ever followed his convictions rather than his interests.
Bred in New England reticence and transplanted to rambunctious Texas, acclaimed as a war hero and scorned as a political wimp, George Bush remains the walking contradiction who puzzled Americans, in this dispassionate biography by Parmet (History/City Univ. of New York; JFK: The Presidency of John F. Kennedy, 1983, etc.).
Not unlike JFK, Bush came from wealth, served with distinction in WW II's Pacific theater, and became the all-important link in a political dynasty (father Prescott was US senator from Connecticut; son George W. is now governor of Texas). But the differences between the two men loom even larger. Bush's career was shaped by gale-force changes within the Republican Party. He made his way in Texas by allying himself with three new strains of conservatives: oil plutocrats who longed for laissez-faire economics, evangelical Protestants (many suspicious of civil-rights initiatives), and anti-communist zealots of the John Birch variety. Nationally, he made his first run for the presidency just as the New Right became ascendant with the election of Ronald Reagan. As a result, this fiercely driven politician had to wait until he was 64 to achieve the presidency, and to endure humiliations and act in ways he would not ordinarily have desired. Described as decent and loyal by most who knew him well, Bush also felt compelled sometimes to campaign with few scruples (he confessed to his minister that he regretted taking far-right positions in a failed run against Senator Ralph Yarborough in 1964). Parmet uses Bush's diaries and interviews with him and his GOP associates to flesh out this story. Still, he unearths few revelations, other than the Bushes' suspicion that a jealous Nancy Reagan spread false rumors of George's affair with the widow of a congressman.
Unlike Parmet's two-volume JFK biography, this suffers from lack of greater access to still-secret materials and to aides with enough distance from the political wars to speak with unbuttoned candor about their boss.