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George H. W. Bush: The American Presidents Series: The 41st President, 1989-1993 Hardcover – December 10, 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Timothy Naftali is the director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, having previously served as director of the Presidential Recordings Program at the University of Virginia. He is the coauthor of Khrushchev's Cold War and One Hell of a Gamble: Khrushchev, Castro, and Kennedy, 1958–1964, and the author of Blind Spot: The Secret History of American Counterterrorism. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Product Details

  • Series: The American Presidents
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (December 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069666
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069662
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #414,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book, authored by Timothy Naftali, ends with the following comment (Page 176): "George W. Bush's controversial presidency led to a positive reassessment of his father's time in the White House. . . .[M]any missed the elder Bush's realism, his diplomacy, his political modesty, and, yes, even his prudence."

George H. W. Bush was a one term president who presided over the end of the Cold War. This slender biography, another entry in The American Presidents series, provides a useful biography of the 41st president of the United States. The book begins with his childhood and youth, culminating in his estimable service in the Navy's air wing, including being shot down in the Pacific. Upon his return to the United States, Bush entered Yale and, upon graduation, became a businessman who did well, after moving from New England to Texas.

In Texas, Bush became interested in politics, and public service consumed him until the end of his presidency. He was ambitious from the start of his career. He had successes (election to the House of Representatives) and failures (defeat in a Senate race). He became a person respected by his Republican Party leaders, and served in a number of important roles, from Director of the CIA, Ambassador to the U. N., Chair of the Republican National Committee, and head of the U. S. diplomatic post in the People's Republic of China.

After his China tour, he began thinking about the presidency. It didn't work out in 1980 (Ronald Reagan simply did a better job as candidate); however, he got quite a consolation prize--Vice President. Then, the tale of his campaign to become President in 1988.

Once elected, he displayed prudence. He ran into trouble when he backed off his "Read my lips; no new taxes" promise from the 1988 campaign.
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Format: Hardcover
I have to say that I found Timothy Naftali's work to be interesting. He did provide a broad brush overview of Bush 41 but did not really give us any insights that couldn't be gleaned from other people's memoir's. It would seem to me that he read what Bob Woodward, Colin Powell, Norman Schwartzcroft and company had to say and simply gleaned off his own interpretation. Granted I don't think the books in this series are supposed to be of tremendous relevance for the more recent presidents, but I certainly hope that for future generations they can provide details on the lesser known ones.

I think this is an interesting and very light read but it does tend in my opinion to reinforce the notion that George H.W. Bush was as much an observer of history than a participant. He was the guy who just happened to be sitting in the Oval Office when this stuff happened and his presence really didn't have that much to do with the rapid changes in the world at the time and quite the opposite, he nearly prevented them from happening. Anyway it's an interesting afternoon read, but don't expect to come away very impressed with Bush 41.
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Format: Hardcover
This was not a strict biography of the entire life of George H. W. Bush. The author. Timothy Naftali, gave brief information about President Bush's family background, military service and early career and of course how he came into public life. Most of the book centered on the challenges that President Bush faced during his years of presidential service and how his early experiences influenced the decisions that he made at a very difficult time in the history of the world.

President Bush was at the helm during the period when the Cold War ended and the people of the Eastern European countries were throwing off the shackles of years of enforced communist rule. The author states that "Poland was the scene of the first dramatic change. In February 1989 Solidarity was legalized and Lech Walesa entered into talks with the Communist government to prepare for a new electoral system."

President Bush's diplomatic relationship with Mikhail Gorbachev was good which was helpful in negotiating peaceful resolutions to some of the many problems which surfaced as the Cold War was ending. The nonviolent reunification of East and West Germany was also accredited to the President's intervention. A few years later in 1991, his diplomacy helped to garner a coalition of united forces that joined together to defeat Saddam Hussein's take over of Kuwait.

On the home front, the President was not particularly popular. The American people found him difficult to understand. In some ways his aristocratic coolness turned many people off and within the Republican Party, he did not have the strong backing that President Reagan had experienced. The election promise that President Bush made when he ran for office was, "Read my lips--no new taxes.
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I grew up in the same town that George H.W. Bush did...Greenwich, Connecticut...and although my political leanings are very different from our former president's, I respect him and thought he did a few good things while in office.

The American Presidents series offers short biographies of the men who have served in that capacity and Timothy Naftali's book is among the best. Bush "41" was and is a complicated man who had not only the burdens of the country to deal with but also the legacy of Ronald Reagan. To a large degree, President Bush succeeded in both aspects.

The best parts of this biography deal with the first two years of Bush's presidency. He was perhaps the most prepared person to be president at the time of his inauguration and his handling of foreign affairs was top-notch, with a few glitches. When Eastern Europe dissolved into chaos, Iraq invaded Kuwait, Panama sank into chaos, George Bush took the reins of leadership and was a master. Author Naftali describes these scenarios with terrific detail. He's not necessarily a Bush admirer, but he's fair to the former president, especially when it comes to the Bush downside....the economy and domestic affairs.

It's too early to tell where George H. W. Bush will rank among our past presidents, but Timothy Naftali has given us reason to believe that Bush will be given a fair shake. He had some notable achievements in his four years and that should be remembered.
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