- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Sentinel HC; First Edition edition (August 3, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1595230009
- ISBN-13: 978-1595230003
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 86 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #360,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Matter of Character: Inside the White House of George W. Bush Hardcover – August 5, 2004
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George W. Bush is a direct and decisive man who is much nicer to his Secret Service agents than Bill Clinton was, according to author Ronald Kessler, and smarter than his critics believe him to be. A Matter of Character, Kessler's examination of the 43rd U.S. President, treads lightly on policy issues as the author instead focuses on Bush's positive personality traits and relates how those traits are positive indicators of his ability as a policymaker and leader of the world's lone superpower. Kessler spoke to several Bush cabinet members, long time friends of Bush, and other associates who speak, perhaps not surprisingly, in glowing terms of what a great guy he is. As for the criticisms of Bush, such as handling of pre-9/11 intelligence, the war in Iraq, and the economy, Kessler dismisses them as the product of jealous former employees, and a pervasive, biased liberal media (particularly Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank). By attacking the accusers instead of thoroughly dissecting the accusations, Kessler misses out on an opportunity to defend the president in a more substantive way. The portrait that ultimately emerges of Bush is not a particularly complicated one. He appears to be a man without flaw, and the book presents a similarly simple view of the greater political landscape: Bush and his allies as honest, shrewd, and virtuous, all others as jerks, fools, and ditherers. A Matter of Character lacks the complexity of Plan of Attack, the book Bob Woodward wrote after gaining similarly close access to Bush and his cabinet. It's more like a forceful piece of campaign material, passionate in its advocacy of the candidate and complete with a heroic black-and-white photograph on the cover, which will give Bush supporters plenty to cheer about. --John Moe
About the Author
Ronald Kessler, an investigative journalist, is the bestselling author of fourteen nonfiction books, including Inside the White House, The Bureau, and The CIA at War. A former reporter for The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, he has won sixteen journalism awardsincluding two George Polk awards, one for national reporting and one for community service.
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One of the most interesting facts about Bush is his unpretending nature (there you have a sign of real intelligence; and watch out, don't confuse it with stupidity.) But in this book, from the very beginning till the end, the author insists in portraying an unbelievable perfect human being. Even previous admissions by the president himself about his wild youth are dismissed. There's hardly a single word of critic from the many friends, members of the Administration and Republican politicians who were interviewed by the author. But once in a while Bush's own voice slips out of the pages, and there he is: unpretending; intelligent; really trying to be compassionate, but not always succesful; believing one can change the world out of pure will but getting the hard facts of reality instead; strangely aware of his imperfect nature; and, last but not least, deeply, contradictory human. That's why I give it four stars.
The book begins with President Bush's early days, providing a short biography that focuses on George W. Bush the man. I've read biographical accounts of President Bush before, but Kessler really captures the full essence of the man. There are other recent books out chronicling the strong leadership and vision that he has provided in his first term in the White House, but this one is unique in its focus upon character, upon the values he embodies and the style of leadership he exhibits as Executive. After reading it through, this reviewer felt as if he came to understand the man that President Bush truly is and the respect he commands from his Cabinet, White House staff, and the civil servants who work for him.
Brief biographical backgrounds and insight are also provided about many of the key players in the Administration-Vice President Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Alberto Gonzalez, Karl Rove, Clay Johnson, etc. Kessler's discussion of these figures is crucial to understanding the kind of White House that President Bush operates-the way of thinking and teamwork they use, how they interact with one another, how they operate in relation to the President, etc.
Kessler's account is most definitely an insider's one. He has conducted interviews with numerous people who work and serve under the President, including housekeepers, groundskeepers, Secret Service, etc. This makes the book particularly interesting and the account of President Bush's sterling character in the White House especially authentic. Anyone can be courteous and kiss up to elitists and big shots, but how one treats one's subordinates and the every-day man on the street says a great deal about one's character. And this book makes it clear: President Bush is a man who takes his oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and to serve the American people seriously. He conducts himself in a professional and honorable manner, as befits the dignity of the esteemed office that he holds. He is a straight-forward, tell-it-like-it-is leader and a man who has arisen to the challenge of his times.
President Bush's conduct of the war on terror plays a vital role in the narrative. Kessler shows the determination and vision that President Bush brings to this monumental task, and also provides a great deal of interesting detail concerning particular episodes in this vital war we are waging against the evil of terrorism. It was President Bush who insisted that we would go after terrorists and those nations who harbor them. I also found Kessler's telling of President Bush's surprise visit to the soldiers in Baghdad, Iraq this past Thanksgiving to be particular touching.
Kessler also does an excellent job in discussing some of the rough spots endured by the Administration-as related to the public through the Old Media filter-and properly dispenses with them. His discussion of the bogus criticisms leveled against President Bush and his Administration by Paul O'Neil, Wesley Clark, and others are a MUST READ.
If there is one drawback to this book, it is the early pages and their discussion of the way the Clinton White House conducted itself. I found the discussion of the current White House to be much more satisfying to read and far more tasteful. Nonetheless, a brief discussion of the character of the Clinton Administration, with occasional comparisons throughout, does serve the purpose of showing the stark contrast between the current administration and the previous one. In these important times, we can all be thankful for the strong character and leadership of President Bush, as Kessler aptly shows.