biographies, Bush, George W Bush, Jean Edward Smith, New Release, presidential biographies, Presidents
by Jean Edward Smith
Simon & Schuster
Release Date: July 5, 2016
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Jean Edward Smith’s stinging biography of Bush 43 will be officially released tomorrow (July 5). Smith is the author of two of my favorite presidential biographies (“Grant” and “FDR“) and in the next few months I will be reading his highly acclaimed “Eisenhower In War and Peace“.
There are 11 presidents and 70 biographies to navigate before I will get to this biography of George W. Bush – so let me know what you think! No matter your political preferences, this biography seems certain to be fascinating (though possibly a bit premature)…
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Third-party reviews and links:
- New York Times review dated July 3, 2016
- Boston Globe review dated July 1, 2016
- The New Yorker review dated July 4, 2016
- The Christian Science Monitor review dated June 6, 2016
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch review dated July 2, 2016
- Texas Monthly review dated July 2016
- Kirkus review dated July 5, 2016
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From the publisher:
“Distinguished presidential biographer Jean Edward Smith offers a critical yet fair biography of George W. Bush, showing how he ignored his advisors to make key decisions himself—most disastrously in invading Iraq—and how these decisions were often driven by the President’s deep religious faith.
George W. Bush, the forty-third president of the United States, almost singlehandedly decided to invade Iraq. It was possibly the worst foreign-policy decision ever made by a president. The consequences dominated the Bush Administration and still haunt us today.
In Bush, “America’s greatest living biographer” (George Will), Jean Edward Smith, demonstrates that it was not Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, or Condoleezza Rice, but President Bush himself who took personal control of foreign policy. Bush drew on his deep religious conviction that important foreign-policy decisions were simply a matter of good versus evil. Domestically, he overreacted to 9/11 and endangered Americans’ civil liberties.
Smith explains that it wasn’t until the financial crisis of 2008 that Bush finally accepted expert advice, something that the “Decider,” as Bush called himself, had previously been unwilling to do. As a result, he authorized decisions that saved the economy from possible collapse, even though some of those decisions violated Bush’s own political philosophy.
Bush is a comprehensive evaluation of the Bush presidency—including Guantanamo, Katrina, No Child Left Behind, and other important topics—that will surely surprise many readers. Controversial, incisive, and compelling, it is thoroughly researched and sure to add to the debate over Bush’s presidential legacy.”
Alec Rogers said:
Never read a book by Smith that wasn’t top notch. I would read his “Grant” but both Ron White and Ron Chernow have bios coming out as well. His bio of Chief Justice Marshall was also very good. Smith was very critical of Bush during his presidency. It will be interesting to see what he makes of his presidency as a whole in hindsight.
Billy Watson said:
meh. Too soon for a great bio of W. I am expecting a hatchet job. Wish Smith would stick to presidents way in the past. Have to say the bio of Grant is one of the best books I have read so far
Agreed it is too early – much like any book on Bush 41, Obama or Clinton. The reviews are very telling.
I don’t think it’s too soon for a bio of W. There will be more bios in the future. A history book is a product of its time, and history’s opinion of a presidency can rise and fall as time passes. If anything, early biographies can be a good resource for future historians who want to know how opinions have or haven’t changed.
For the record, Peter Baker’s recent book about the Bush administration, “Days of Fire,” was very good.
Having just read Jon Meacham’s “Destiny and Power”, which covered the life and presidency of George H.W. Bush, I think I’ll hold off on reading Mr. Smith’s biography of the son. Frankly, I don’t think that enough time has passed to truly assess the presidency of George W. Bush, and I’m rather disturbed by the fact that Mr. Smith did not interview Bush.
Alec Rogers said:
Did he seek one? I’d be surprised if he did not. It is an odd choice for what is likely to be his last major work given his age.
My understanding is that he did seek an interview but Bush 43 has, thus far, granted no interviews to any authors.
Good question. I believe that the NYT review stated that Bush declined to be interviewed for the book, which doesn’t surprise me, since he already published his memoir on his presidency a few years ago.
Review at Foreign Policy
“It’s Impossible to Count the Things Wrong With the Negligent, Spurious, Distorted New Biography of George W. Bush”:
Thanks for the link. This certainly has proven to be a somewhat non-traditional bio of Bush (based on the reviews I’ve seen…I won’t get to read this for another 12+ months).