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The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush, An Inside Account Hardcover – January 7, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

According to former White House speechwriter David Frum, George W. Bush is "a good man who is not a weak man. He is impatient, quick to anger; sometimes glib, even dogmatic, often uncurious, and as a result ill-informed." All the same--well, look at the book's title. Frum chronicles a tenure spent serving a president whom he comes to admire more after the events of September 11, 2001. It is after working with Bush in times of war that Frum says of Bush "outweighing the faults are his virtues: decency, honesty, rectitude, courage, and tenacity." The Right Man creates an arc in that Frum is originally dubious of Bush's leadership capacity and ends up sold on Bush as commander-in-chief. But in truth, Frum never has far to go. He's impressed with Bush from the start and when war comes, he's more impressed. And while the book is as much about the author as the president, sections, such as an argument with Barbra Streisand and a Washington Post gossip storm may strike the reader as somewhat petty. Fortunately, there are entertaining helpings of candor: the stringent White House dress code, infighting among cabinet members, and unbelievably cool Air Force One trips. Also of particular interest are events surrounding the controversial phrase "axis of evil": Frum helps coin it, his wife boasts of that fact in an e-mail to friends, the e-mail is widely forwarded, and, soon after, Frum resigns. While both he and the White House deny he was fired, Frum is so insistent on the fact that he quit on his own that it really makes you wonder. The Right Man is a multifaceted glimpse at the life of a White House insider and a president in a time of crisis; it should appeal to readers curious to learn about the inner workings of the American presidency. --John Moe

From Publishers Weekly

Frum, author of Dead Right and the phrase "axis of evil," looks back on a year as a speechwriter in the Bush White House in this affable and witty but slightly cagey account. Frum recounts the travails of crafting the President's public pronouncements and the ordeal of the terrorist attacks, and draws funny thumbnail sketches of White House personalities like communications director Karen Hughes, who "disliked verbs" because they "conveyed action, not feeling." Mostly, though, he keeps the focus on Bush, vigorously disputing the notion that the President is a dim-witted figurehead for powerful advisors like Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and insisting that Bush is a commanding leader who came into his own after 9/11. But he also describes the president as "ill informed" and "sometimes glib, even dogmatic," with "a poor memory for facts and figures"; his strengths are "tenacity," "courage," a "large and clear" vision and a "Holden Caulfield streak" of sincerity. Frum was not part of the inner circle, so his evidence for Bush's leadership sometimes consists of the bold statements Bush made in speeches that were crafted by others to explain policies hashed out by his subordinates. His sketchy defense of Bush's policy-making is similarly unconvincing; concerns about the energy industry's influence on the plan to drill in Alaska are dismissed as "goofy," and his recap of the Bush tax cut doesn't answer the main criticism that it is skewed toward the rich. Frum is an engaging writer, but this is very much a speechwriter's book-packed with graceful sound bites, but ultimately more spin than substance.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (January 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375509038
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375509032
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,173,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Frum is a contributing editor at Newsweek/Daily Beast and a CNN contributor. He is the author of eight books, including most recently the e-book WHY ROMNEY LOST and his first novel, PATRIOTS. In 2001-2002, he served as speechwriter and special assistant to President George W. Bush; in 2007-2008, as senior adviser to the Rudy Giuliani presidential campaign. You can read him at and on Twitter @davidfrum

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Fector Snackerton on January 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
My feelings are the opposite of the "Reader from Washington" who reviews Frum's book here. I in fact DID want the personal perspective of a White House staffer and that's what I got in this excellently written narrative. If anything, I would have traded some of Frum's political analysis (perceptive as it is) for still more anecdotes.
The account of the 9/11 experience of the White House staffers by itself makes the book a worthwhile read. Kaddish on a PalmPilot!
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41 of 52 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
While "The Right Man" does offer a fair amount of insights into the Bush Administration (I liked the ground/passing game analogy to describe the relationship between Hughes and Rove), I must say I was a bit disappointed--even though it is still worth reading. This book has been hyped as an "insider's account" of the Bush Administration, but it reads more like an autobiography of David Frum's brief time in the White House. The Right Man is already a short book, but it would have been better had Frum left out some of his personal anecdotes and concentrated more on the inner-workings of the Administration. I agree with Frum's conclusion that Bush is the "right man" for president, but I fear Frum might not have been the right man to write this book (please forgive the pun).
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28 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Catalina Sanchez on November 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
David Frum promises an insider's look at the White House, but he doesn't seem to have had the access (or perhaps the time) to deliver. His stories are often about his own star-struck reactions to Bush and the inner power circle. Of course, he was only speechwriter for a year, and the personality he seems to be most familiar with is Karen Hughes. That would make sense, since Hughes vetted all of Bush's speeches during that period. She would have been an almost impregnable wall between Frum and Bush.
Although he doesn't have many real stories to tell, Frum pads the book with personal, and partisan, observations. He decides that 9/11 elevated Bush's presidency by giving Bush a higher purpose, but he doesn't provide anecdotes to support his thesis that Bush is courageous, honest, or decent. The reader either accepts this view from the start (and most buyers of this book will probably already agree with it), or kicks himself for having paid good money for an insider's account that isn't.
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30 of 39 people found the following review helpful By David J. Gannon on January 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is the first major work by a true insider from the Bush White House and it paints a very detailed and vivid picture of the nature of Bush's approach to both the Presidency as well as how his White House staff operates.
Frum is a former Wall Street Journal writer and has written on conservative social and political issues. He worked in the White House as a speech writer, focused on economic matters initially and then refocused on international issues after September 11th. While he's philosophically aligned with Bush he nevertheless was somewhat uninformed about Bush both personally and politically when he first appeared on the national scene (weren't we all) and somewhat ambivalent about him when he went to work for the Bush Administration. That sense of ambivalence comes through subtly throughout the book and lends it, to my mind, an additional layer of credence.
The boom is very detailed and wide ranging. It covers policy, Bush's personal leadership style, his political philosophy, the usual White House intrigues--pretty standard stuff for this sort of effort.
Several tings set this book apart, however. One is the simple dearth of genuine, detailed insider White House reporting that has emerged on this administration to date. Frum deftly explains that this is a function of several factors--this White House's penchant for security, the unusually close knit operating structure in the White House as compared to, say, the Clinton era, but most especially the incredible loyalty George Bush naturally inspires. Frum gives this penchant for loyalty the full treatment and it's a fascinating phenomenon to behold in this day and age.
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126 of 175 people found the following review helpful By Customer on January 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As far as I can tell, there is only one problem with this book. Getting the Bush-haters to read it. Many will claim this a work of bias without ever opening the book. Others will dismiss it because of David Frum himself. From his years as an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal and through the several books Frum has published, he has established himself a conservative. This means most readers from the left side of the aisle will avoid this fine book like the plague. But if you think this is just another conservative writer singing praises of the President, you couldn't be more wrong.

Frum has long been known to have opposed the Bush presidency. When asked to join the President's staff as a speech writer, he was at first shocked, and later quite reluctant. Throughout the book, Frum call a spade a spade. When he disagrees with something the President said or did, he tells the reader.

The question of "Who is George W. Bush?" is clearly delineated throughout this book. We find the author shocked to discover a man of such virtue leading the nation from the Oval Office. We see the President, not as the bumbling idiot the media and the left have tried tenaciously to portray him as, but rather as the sly, ever calculating fox that he is. We see the President as the `right man' for leading this nation at a time when solid and relentless perspicacity is most needed.

The reader sees first hand, the oil and water mixture of a working relationship between Karl Rove and Karen Hughes. The leftist myths that the President is only a puppet and that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, et. al. are truly running the nation are removed without doubt.

Anyone who will read this book with an open mind will come away greatly enlightened. Admirers of George W.
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