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.
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