Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Bruni, White House correspondent for the New York Times, aims to entice readers who want to know more about their commander-in-chief, yet he focuses on the seemingly trivial aspects of Bush's personality, small moments that he believes "reveal every bit as much about Bush as large ones": Bush sticking his fingers in Bruni's ears to indicate something is off the record. Or Bush holding his pinkie to the corner of his mouth la Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies. Most of these observations reside firmly in the Bush-as-intellectual-lightweight tradition. But Bruni also acknowledges many times when Bush surprised him with "flashes of cleverness" as when, reflecting on his patrimony, Bush offered stabbing insights into the similar advantages of top New York Times executive Arthur Sulzberger Jr., whose family has owned Bruni's newspaper for generations. Taken together, Bruni's minute observations do present a cohesive portrait of George W. Bush. The problem is, it's Bush the Candidate, not Bush the President who appears only briefly at the end. For the most part, the book focuses on the 2000 campaign, the last period during which reporters had open access to Bush. Thus, Bruni finds himself writing about Bush on the wrong side of September 11. What does remain interesting are the glimpses that Bruni provides of the journalistic side of the campaign, which the author says reached "new depths of disingenuous behavior" (e.g., reporters manufacturing arguments between candidates in order to trump up stories, as Bruni admits he and others frequently did). These insights are surprising and instructional and far more likely to remain relevant than any caricature of the wartime president as a "timeless fraternity boy." Agent, Lisa Bankoff. (Mar. 25) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Insightful memoir of Bush's 2000 presidential campaign by a New York Times correspondent. Traveling with the candidate, Bruni initially found him superficial, childish, and largely unknowledgeable about world affairs-unprepared and even unmotivated to be president. As they became better acquainted, the journalist began to see and appreciate Bush's basic goodness and kindness toward others, his flashes of wit and compassion, his devotion to family, the loyalty he engendered in friends and associates, and his deep religious faith. Bruni shares the fruits of many close encounters with the Bushes: wife Laura is either extremely reticent or very dull; Mom Barbara is not above making catty remarks about the Clintons; daughters Jenna and Barbara barely pay attention to the campaign; George W. himself gets painfully homesick for Texas and is likely to fly off the handle at anyone who gets between him and his favorite meal (a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich). The author offers sharp, informed views about the troubled nature of big-money politics, from the unhealthy predominance of spin over substance to the complicity of the reporters who know better but participate in the frenzy for breaking stories anyway. Bruni watches Bush mature first as a candidate, then as president; he begins and ends with discussion of September 11, favorably rating his response and growth under trying circumstances. Bush was not ideal presidential material, suggests the author, but he's not much kinder to candidate Al Gore; Bruni's conclusion seems to be that for a variety of reasons, Americans in the year 2000 wanted a president who did not seem particularly eager or qualified for the job. The subject and many of the incidents discussed here are familiar, but this economically written and tightly organized account is a pleasure to read. One of the few insider accounts of an American political campaign to successfully reveal the immense impact the process itself has on shaping candidates and, in the end, public officials.
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