Friday, 22 August 2008

"Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush", by Robert Draper (Free Press)

An intimate, surprisingly balanced look into the Bush Character and Presidency

Just a quick review. I started reading this in the Borders Starbucks in Cambridge, over breakfast (it's one of my favourite ways to spend the morning) and found myself most of the way through by the end of the day. Draper's prose are fluid and narrative in style, never dropping off into dense policy terminology or torturous sentences.

Gleaned from extensive interviews with the President and many of his key staff, Dead Certain is a surprisingly unbias look at Bush's presidency. Detailing the ups and downs of the first seven years of his administration, Draper provides a glimpse into the workings of the White House, warts and all. Having said it's unbiased, it must be said that less attention is paid to the administration's failures than its successes. Draper sometimes uses some pretty sycophantic terminology to put across Bush's good choices and decisions, but it does little to cover up the fact that President Bush has presided over some monumental cock-ups: Katrina, Iraq, etc. (everyone's aware of these bad choices, it seems pointless reiterating them here).

In all, this has been one of the most enjoyable presidential biographies that I've read (I'm up to about my 20th this year), as its style has been accessible and the book's chapters well structured and paced. Filled with interesting anecdotes and little-known facts, Dead Certain should appeal to anyone interested in reading more about the 43rd president.

A surprisingly schizophrenic book, it swings between near-sycophancy to quiet mockery of the president and his advisers. It makes for a very interesting read.

Complimentary reading: Craig Unger's The Fall of the House of Bush (2008); Bob Woodward's State of Denial (Pocket Books, 2007); Paul Alexander's "All Hat, No Cattle" (Rolling Stone, August 5th 1999 - for a less bias piece on George W.'s pre-White House history); Jacob Heilbrunn's The Bush Tragedy (Bloomsbury, 2007)