Is Our Children Learning?: The Case Against George W. Bushby Paul Begala
He was a poor student who somehow got into the finest schools. He was a National Guardsman who somehow missed a year of service. He was a failed businessman who somehow was made rich. He was a minority investor who somehow was made managing partner of the Texas Rangers. He was a defeated politician who somehow was made governor. You can hardly blame him for
He was a poor student who somehow got into the finest schools. He was a National Guardsman who somehow missed a year of service. He was a failed businessman who somehow was made rich. He was a minority investor who somehow was made managing partner of the Texas Rangers. He was a defeated politician who somehow was made governor. You can hardly blame him for expecting to inherit the White House.
"Is Our Children Learning?" examines the public life and public record of George W. Bush and reveals him for who he is: a man who presents the thinnest, weakest, least impressive record in public life of any major party nominee this century; a man who at every critical juncture has been propelled upward by the forces of wealth, privilege, status, and special interests who use his family's name for their private gain.
A Texan, political analyst, strategist, and partisan, Paul Begala has written a devastating assessment of the Bush brand of politics.
- Simon & Schuster
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 0.37(w) x 5.50(h) x 8.50(d)
Read an Excerpt
At first I really liked George W. Bush.
Having grown up mostly in Texas, I left in 1989 to become a political consultant in Washington, D.C. Because I had the good sense to partner up with James Carville, I had a run of good luck, helping elect such Democrats as Governor Bob Casey of Pennsylvania (who died, sadly, this year), Governor (now Senator) Zell Miller of Georgia, and Senators Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania.
Then, in 1992, Carville and I served as senior strategists for the Clinton-Gore campaign. It was like being the jockey on Secretariat. Clinton and Gore won, and Carville and I went on to fame and fortune. But by 1995 the Republicans had taken over Congress, and Dick Morris had largely taken over Carville's and my role as principal political adviser. And since my wife and I were expecting our second baby, I had no desire to leave my growing family for another long campaign.
So I returned to my beloved Texas in 1995, Bush's first year as governor. I met him, and he impressed me. I thought then -- and I think now -- that he's a basically good man. He seems to have an abiding faith in God -- and in himself -- and an intense devotion to his family, his state, and our nation. And he's not a bigot. (If this seems like damning with faint praise to you, I'm not kidding. Most of the success the Republican party has enjoyed in the South is directly attributable to the Democratic party's support for -- and the GOP's opposition to -- racial equality.) Bush truly doesn't know the meaning of the word "intolerance." (But then again, he doesn't know what continent Mexico is on, the name of the prime minister of India, or where he was for a year in the National Guard. But that's for later in this book.)
So to encounter a successful Southern Republican who didn't seem to have an ounce of prejudice in him was a delight. I went out of my way to say nice things about him, and he reciprocated. We exchanged complimentary notes, and I was perfectly happy to praise him in the press -- especially when he tried to raise taxes in order to improve school funding. (He failed.) I even described his early years in office as "an unqualified success." But as a potential president I can only give him half that description: unqualified.
What's changed? Two things: I learned more about Bush (and how easily I could fall for first impressions), and Bush decided that he wanted to be our president.
I still think Bush is a basically decent guy. But I'm deeply troubled by much of what he has done and what he has failed to do -- in business and as governor of Texas -- and I am flat-out petrified about him becoming our president.
President Clinton lured me back to Washington to serve as one of his top White House aides in 1997. In that job I had a front-row seat from which to study the American presidency. Clinton, despite his personal failings, is the smartest person I've ever known and the most talented politician I've ever seen. And the job took every bit of his intellect; it demanded every ounce of his talent. On top of all that, the job required every iota of Clinton's vaunted compassion. Not the stuff of Bush's platitudinous speeches; the real thing. The kind of empathy that knew instinctively what to do when an elderly woman in New Hampshire collapsed sobbing in his arms as she tried to tell him how she had to choose between paying to heat her home or for her prescription drugs.
W, you're going to hate me when someone reads this to you. (I know you're not big on books yourself.) But you don't have what it takes to be president. Even your most loyal defenders say you're a few beans shy of a full burrito intellectually. And your whole career has been a case study in the art of failing upward. You were a poor student who somehow got into the finest schools. You were a National Guardsman who somehow disappeared from duty for a year. You were a failed businessman who somehow got rich. You were a minority investor who somehow was made managing partner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. And you were a defeated politician who somehow was made governor.
Let's face it, Dub: you were born on third base, and you think you hit a triple. You're lighter than my grandma's biscuits. You know it. I know it. And now the American people are going to know it.
This book examines the real record of George Walker Bush: a man who presents the thinnest, weakest, least impressive record in public life of any major party nominee for the presidency this century. A man who at every critical juncture has been propelled upward by the forces of wealth, privilege, status, and special interests who would use his family's name for their private gain.
But before we start, a brief word about what this book is not. It is not a product of the Gore for President campaign. In fact, with the exception of my sister (who used to be Gore's communications director) I didn't even tell anyone from the Gore campaign I was writing this book. Nor is this book a sales job on why you should vote for Al Gore for president. I am fully qualified to write such a book, having worked with him in the 1992 campaign and served with him in the White House. The Al Gore I know has the quality of mind, the depth of spirit, the firmness of principle, and the goodness of heart to be a great president. But I don't flack for Al Gore. He can make the case for his candidacy just fine without me.
This book is prompted by my own experience as a partisan, as a political analyst, as a strategist, and as a Texan observing Bush. It is not a hatchet job. It is meticulously documented. (For my right-wing friends who get their news from AM radio blowhards, those little numbers are notes; scholars use them to authenticate their work.) And it is limited to Bush's public life and public record. I have no interest or desire to poke around in Bush's private life, nor do I particularly care if he had too many beers at a college kegger, or experimented with something worse twenty-five years ago. This is not the politics of personal destruction. It is documentation of Bush's brand of politics: the politics of platitudes, the politics of cynical sound bites devoid of substance, the politics of familial vengeance, and the politics of faithfully serving the interests of those who have made you wealthy and powerful.
I have looked behind W's smirk. This is what I found.
Copyright © 2000 by Paul Begala
Meet the Author
Paul Begala was a chief strategist for the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, which carried thirty-three states and made Bill Clinton the first Democrat to win the White House in sixteen years. He served as counselor to the president in the Clinton White House, where he coordinated policy, politics, and communications. He is the author of four books, including Is Our Children Learning?: The Case Against George W. Bush; It's Still the Economy, Stupid; and Buck Up, Suck Up...and Come Back When You Foul Up (with James Carville). Begala is a CNN political commentator and a research professor of public policy at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute. Paul earned both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Texas, where he was student body president. He and his wife live quietly in Virginia with their four boys and a German shepherd. (Okay, so they don't live too quietly.)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
A very frightening story of an unemployed-until-40 alcoholic (with very little in the intellect department) and how he could be propped up and paraded to dupe the dim and dull-witted portion of the American populace into voting for him.
More than just a collection of Bushisms, this book presents Bush for what he really is: an incompetent, arrogant, spoiled rich brat. As for you Bush-supporting tools out there, I actually would rather have a man who doesn't have to be briefed on who our world leaders are or where Afghanistan is. A man whose cabinet wasn't hand-picked by his daddy. I'm so sick of the spin-doctoring whereby Bush is presented as 'a man of the people' as an excuse to his intellectual laziness and incoherence. When we have an elected official who occupies (illegally) the highest office in the land, who talks about improving education yet cannot master the fine art of subject/verb agreement and speaks in West Texan Ebonics, we have become a complete and total laughing stock to our European allies. The election of 'Bush Light' goes to show just how 'dumbed down' our country has become. To think 'you don't have to be smart to be president' is scary! We should expect more!
Although the election is over and much of the information discussed by Mr. Begala was written for the election season, this book remains a must read for anyone interested in the president or politics in general. I met Mr. Begala recently and purchased this book shortly thereafter. His discoveries beg the question, 'How did this guy get elected?' Based upon Mr. Begala's assertions, President Bush's approval rating will continue to drop and his inability to lead will become more evident on a daily basis.
God, please let this idiot resign before he 'fixes' the country into a depression! I dare any Bush supporter to read the actual documented facts in this book. This guy skated thru luck break after break on his Daddy's name and his supporter's money. He is a puppet for the big polluting companies and the far right lobbiests like the NRA. I wish that I lived in Canada so I could laugh about it, but this is just sad.
As a Canadian living in the US, I've been following your Presidential election with neighbourly interest. When I read Paul Begala's book, I was not only amazed at the illiterate comments George W. Bush frequently makes, but that the American people would even think for a New York minute, that this man is fit to lead. I highly recommend this book to anyone who values freedom, true leadership, and treasures their right to vote. Surely Americans deserve a better 'leader,' and we Canadians would certainly appreciate an educated neighbour.
Anyone who even remotely thought of voting to put George W. in as President will (or should if they have any brain at all) change his or her mind! The man is nothing but an incompetent rich fool. A puppet, that¿s why the repubs want him. He's an idiot willing to do as he is told by the right wing. This fun (and frightening) read lets the voters know that Bush is nothing but an all around failure, total moron, and isn¿t qualified to run a nursery school not to mention America!
Begala, a former domestic policy advisor to President Clinton, provides a scathing review of George W. Bush's political life and policies in this tour de force book. If you are a Democrat, the book provides ample ammunition agaist 'W' and those of his ilk. Forward-thinking Republicans, after reading it, will find it difficult if not impossible to support their heir to the Presidency. Likewise, independents consciously trying to weigh the pros and cons of George W. and Vice President Al Gore will find it to be an illuminating work in helping them make their decision. With the election barely more than five weeks away, read this book if you hope to make an informed choice.
It was an easy read, even a page turner. I expected to laugh and I did, but it was also very, very scary. This is a non-fiction documented account of George W. Bush's illustrious accomplishments in business and politics. Should he win the election, be afraid, be very afraid. I recommend this to anyone who intends to vote.