George W. Bush and the Making of an American President
by J. H. Hatfield
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
This book is a negative biography of George W. Bush -- very negative. So negative that Bush attacked the author -- and hence the author became the controversy about this book, rather than the content of the book. At issue is the accusation that Bush was arrested for cocaine usage decades ago; Bush's allies responded by alleging that the author was arrested for even worse misdeeds. The counter-accusations against the author (and whether Bush was involved with them) deflected attention from the accusation against Bush -- which perhaps was the purpose of the counter-accusation, if one is a cynic.
Is attacking the author a good idea? Or more relevantly, is it good politics? This book was published just prior to the 2000 election; we have two examples for comparison, in the two subsequent elections. Bush suffered electorally because of the cocaine accusation -- but it never became enough of a full-fledged issue to lose him the election. In other words, the strategy of attacking the author worked.
In the 2004 election, John Kerry was similarly accused of horrendous behavior in what became known as the Swift Boat attack. Many Kerry allies attacked that book's author, Jerome Corsi, as unreliable, but Kerry himself did not respond. Kerry's lack of response is widely credited with contributing to his 2004 election loss. In other words, Kerry ignored Bush's lesson of responding by counter-attack, and paid the consequences.
After the 2008 election, Sarah Palin was the subject of an unfriendly biography called
The Rogue, by Joe McGinnis. That author moved in next door to the Palins' home in Wasilla, Alaska. Palin made the author' the issue -- she attacked him for invasion of privacy, and by the time the book was published, the book's content had become irrelevant -- only the author's action in writing the book mattered. In other words, Palin took Bush's lesson and responded by counter-attack, and reaped the benefits.
So what about the content of this book? Why did Bush attack the author here, and not, say, the equally negative biographies Shrub or Worse Than Watergate? We think it's because this author went too far. Rather than restricting his attack to Bush's actions, the author questioned the entire Bush family. The Bushes feel entitled to high office, the author claims on pp. 2-5, because they feel like America's aristocracy.
The author goes on to attack George H. W. Bush too: questioning his actions in getting shot down over the Pacific in 1945. The author claims (pp. 306-17) that Bush Sr. ejected prematurely, and could have saved the other crew members from death. (The US Navy disagreed, and awarded Bush the Distinguished Flying Cross for that incident, as the author notes on p. 9). That sort of generic anti-Bush attack probably riled up the Bush family enough to go after the author -- and it certainly feels to the reader like the author overstepped the bounds of journalistic propriety.
We excerpt this book now, in preparation for the 2016 election, because the author would certainly include Jeb Bush as subject to the negative aspects of the Bush family legacy. We can anticipate a similar attack book, and a similar counter-attack, coming soon.
-- Jesse Gordon, OnTheIssues editor-in-chief, January 2013
| OnTheIssues.org excerpts: (click on issues for details)
Budget & Economy|
Jeb Bush: 1988: Lost $4M in taxpayer bailout of failed Savings & Loan.
George W. Bush: 1978: ERA is unnecessary.
George W. Bush: 1994: Tort reform is good for business and good for TX.
Ralph Nader: 1995: Gov. Bush's tort reform benefited him personally.
George Bush Sr.: Willie Horton ads: "revolving door of justice" frees rapists.
George W. Bush: 1990s: TX is dangerous because 7,700 criminals were released.
George W. Bush: 1994: End "mandatory supervision" and early parole.
George Bush Sr.: Pledge of Allegiance: Kids should say "One nation under God".
George W. Bush: As child, discovered that his younger brother was dyslexic.
George W. Bush: 1994: Created nation's first Home Rule School Districts.
Energy & Oil|
George Bush Sr.: 1953: Founded Zapata Petroleum Corp. with $350,000 capital.
George W. Bush: 1978: Opposed term limits for Congress, in Congress race.
George W. Bush: Cited 10th Amendment in TX inauguration.
George W. Bush: Forge good public policy by leaders discussing privately.
George Bush Sr.: 1995: Resigned from NRA after NRA called feds "thugs".
George W. Bush: Cites Machiavelli and Madison as gun rights supporters.
George W. Bush: 1995: Concealed carry doesn't make TX more dangerous.
George W. Bush: 1995: $4000 fine plus jail for letting kids get loaded gun.
Dan Quayle: 1969: "Phone calls were made" to avoid Vietnam service.
George Bush Sr.: Claims he objected to Iran-Contra; Reagan says he did not.
George W. Bush: 1968: Choice was avoid draft or sign up; I signed up.
Ross Perot: 1980s: Traveled to Vietnam in violation of the Logan Act.
Principles & Values|
George W. Bush: OpEd: Popularity based on name brand; issue stances unknown.
George W. Bush: Related to Queen Elizabeth II and British royal family.
George W. Bush: Role in father's 1988 campaign: surrogate and fundraiser.
George Bush Sr.: The Wimp Factor: 51% thought it was a "serious problem".
George W. Bush: OpEd: Popularity due to name recognition, not issue stances.
George W. Bush: At age 7, not told sister's illness was terminal.
George W. Bush: 1968: Broke off marriage engagement to Cathy Wolfman.
George W. Bush: Related to Queen of England and US President Pierce.
George W. Bush: 1970s: Attended Harvard Business School; lived in Cambridge.
George W. Bush: 1977: Met Laura & chose to productive citizenship over drink.
George W. Bush: I firmly believe in the power of intercessory prayer.
George W. Bush: 1995: Second Republican elected in TX since Reconstruction.
Jeb Bush: 1994: Anti-abortion; anti-crime; anti-government; anti-taxes.
Ross Perot: OpEd: Raised issues in 1992 that no one else did.
Ted Kennedy: 1980: Initially hailed as Democratic Party's savior.
Welfare & Poverty|
George W. Bush: 1972: early job as inner city youth counselor.
The above quotations are from Fortunate Son
George W. Bush and the Making of an American President
by J. H. Hatfield.
Related books, debates, and candidates:
- Decision Points, by George W. Bush
- Shrub, by Molly Ivins
- Fortunate Son, by J. H. Hatfield
- Worse Than Watergate, by John Dean
- The Right Man: An Inside Account of the Bush White House, by David Frum
- The Price of Loyalty: The Education of Paul O'Neill, by Ron Suskind
- Bush At War, Part I, by Bob Woodward (2002)
- Plan of Attack, Part II, by Bob Woodward (2004)
- State of Denial, Part III, by Bob Woodward (2006)
- A Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George W. Bush, by Ronald Kessler
- Lessons From a Father to His Son, by John Ashcroft
- Winning Modern Wars
- Hegemony or Survival, by Noam Chomsky
- 2006 State of the Union speech, plus response by Gov. Tim Kaine (D, VA)
- A Charge To Keep, by George W. Bush
- The Assault on Reason, by Al Gore
- Against All Enemies:Inside America's War on Terror, by Richard A. Clarke