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Ambling into History: The Unlikely Odyssey of George W. Bush Paperback – March 4, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (March 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060937823
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060937829
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,257,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Ambling into History, New York Times reporter Frank Bruni has drawn an informal, evenhanded, largely anecdotal, and revealing portrait of George W. Bush, whose presidential campaign he covered. Bruni initially describes Bush as "part scamp and part bumbler," but his respect grows, and he finds that, with the September 11, 2001, attacks, Bush "inherited his true purpose," thereby spurring his emergence as a leader. Bruni is not especially concerned with Bush's political philosophy, preferring instead to relate many "small moments" to show what Bush "looked and acted like on the edges of what was usually considered news." Bruni is at his best when describing--often humorously--the exhausting life of the media corps during a campaign: the 24-hour days, the harrowing deadlines, and the brutish tedium of listening to and reporting on the same speech over and over again, a process he likens to "aerobic stenography." An equal-opportunity cynic, Bruni decries the "superficiality" not only of American politics but the media's coverage of it. This is an amiable and seemingly trustworthy peek behind the presidential dais and into a reporter's notebook. --H. O'Billovich --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

And it's part of the misunderestimation of George W. Bush.
Rodolfo Camacho
Bruni's book was very interesting and entertaining, especially the amusing tidbits about Bush on the campaign trail.
A candidate can't aspire simply for a title, the office, or the limelight.
R. Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Joel L. Gandelman VINE VOICE on March 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ambling Into History has polarized some readers because of the subject --George W. Bush. Author Frank Bruni has been accused of trivializing and belittling Bush, or of pumping up and promoting him.
But as someone who truly has no political ax to grind (pro or con) I must say this: I absolutely LOVED this book. And in the end some of things that people may have felt belittled Bush
were to me quite endearing. I FINALLY had read a political book and learned a lot more about how the subject of the book REALLY was as a REAL person.
This political saga shows a politician who privately raises an eyebrow at many of the political process' pomposities, rituals and postures and who behaves as an authentic human being, rather than a character sent from Hollywood's Central Casting to fill a stereotypical role.
This book is FUN and enlightening. It's all there: info about the campaign, and early evidence that GWB did not actually "grow in office" due to 911 as much as confront an unprecedented crisis with skills he already had -- and had honed. When I had done shows in Texas (I am an entertainer) I had heard stories about Bush's charisma in private but until this book never saw anything that communicated it in print (or on the networks).
Most of Ambling is set on the campaign trail. After Bush's searing loss to John McCain GWB made himself more available to the press. In private he suddenly became a fun candidate to cover -- and he was clearly trying to win them over with humor. A reporter might find Bush playfully sticking his index fingers in the reporters ears to keep him from hearing something. Bush once jokingly put his hands around Bruni's throat. Such antics were a part of Bush's good-guy make-up, evident in college when he named a stickball team "the Nads"...
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Olmsted on March 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Frank Bruni followed George W. Bush throughout his presidential campaign, and was able to see the candidate up close and personal for months on end. This experience gives him a number of insights into the President's character and personality and has allowed him to write a fascinating insider's view of the campaign.
Bruni's assessment of the Bush Campaign's strategies and of how the candidate acted and reacted to his life on the campaign are excellent reading. Even more interesting is Bruni's candid assessment of how the press covers campaigns, and how the press tends to distort the campaign for the sake of keeping things interesting. He makes no excuses for this, and is refreshingly critical of a number of much of the press coverage.
His assessment of Bush is equally even handed. He doesn't try to cover up Bush's flaws, but neither does he try to bludgeon the reader with personal attacks. The picture of Bush that emerges is one that would be familiar to most of us, a person with strengths and weaknesses, who works to overcome his weaknesses and take advantage of his strengths.
The one area where the book fails, in my opinion, is when Bruni discusses September 11. Bruni attempts to use his knowledge of Bush from the campaign trail to assess Bush's actions following September 11, an assessment that seems remarkably premature. Bruni admits he hasn't seen Bush since his inauguration, yet he makes significant assumptions about Bush's behavior and the rationale for it based on his campaign experience. This detracts from the more interesting parts of the book, because he's replaced reporting and analysis with speculation. Still, it's a book well worth reading.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By John Elsegood on July 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
On the 3 July 2004 Fox News Watch member Neal Gabler implied that Frank Bruni was something of a cheer leader for George W Bush in the 2000 election.
That is not something a dispassionate reader would claim after reading Bruni's account in this book, essentially a campaign journal of Bruni's travels on the 'Zoo plane,'and elsewhere during that frantic presidential election.
Overall Bruni is mildly critical of his subject, but often in a funny way, particularly with the then Republican candidate's mangling of the English language -something that Bush is able to laugh at himself over (a good trait).
The book is not a must-read, and is now dated being published in early 2002, but it does give some idea of how manic and maniac campaign life is for both journalists and candidates.
Bush is revealed as a man with an impish sense of humour but also one that developed newfound gravity after the horrific attacks on his country, in September 2001, and a leader who takes the trappings of the presidency seriously. On one occasion he forgot to salute a marine as he boarded his helicopter, Marine One, to go to Camp David but once inside he remembered his failure and so returned to salute the startled guard!
If you like a gossipy style account of elections then this book is an enjoyable enough light read
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Melissa L. Shogren on March 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
My husband is supposed to be reading Ambling ... for an on-line book group, but I borrowed it 2 days ago, and wouldn't give it back to him until I finished.
This book does a remarkable job of portraying a man who struggled with family expectations, addictions, and ambivalence about his race to the presidency. I think that what makes Bruni's criticisms of Bush seem fair even to this Republican is that Bruni frequently touches on his uncertainties regarding the man. Bruni shows a healthy scepticism toward journalists and his own prejudices, telling Bush's story with a remarkable even-handedness. He's sympathetic to Bush's good qualities, yet fair when dealing with the man's faults. This is a book I am strongly recommending to both my Republican and Democrat friends.
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