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Misunderestimated: The President Battles Terrorism, John Kerry, and the Bush Haters Hardcover – May 11, 2004
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President George W. Bush is an avid reader of the newspaper sports section but tries to stay away from hard news. That is one of the revelations of Washington Times senior White House correspondent Bill Sammons book Misunderestimated. "I don't watch the nightly newscasts on TV," says the President, "nor do I watch the endless hours of people giving their opinion about things. I don't read the editorial pages; I don't read the columnists. It can be a frustrating experience to pay attention to somebody's false opinion." Bush's reading habits prompted world-wide headlines when Misunderestimated came out, but interestingly, Sammon doesn't think they speak badly about Bush. In fact, he cheers Bush for ignoring the journalists who, he believes, have misrepresented and underestimated the president. In this angrily written book, Sammon attempts to set the record strait and expose the media for the left-wing "Bush-hating" cabal he insists it is.Sammon allows that the leader of the free world may not be a genius of grammatical English. But he argues that Bush will be remembered not for his malapropisms (the best example of which is probably his coining of the term "misunderestimated") but rather for setting the U.S. on a new aggressive path of "pre-emptive" self-defense and disdain for international bodies like the United Nations. Sammon is incensed by anti-Bush attitudes he sees in the media and among Democrats, who he says are "hopelessly mired in the gutter." Yet, Sammon himself comes off as devotedly partisan, too, as he breathlessly writes of hiking at the presidents ranch in Texas and being playfully teased by Bush at a White House briefing. Misunderestimated will appeal to the President's supporters, but others may find it too strident and wonder whether all of Sammon's tract can be taken at face value. --Alex Roslin
"Bush 43 rarely talks about Bush 41. So it's really pretty astonishing that he did so with Bill Sammon." -- The Washington Post, May 10, 2004
"It is an excellent book...far beyond any book yet written about the Bush administration." -- Rush Limbaugh, May 5, 2004
"Sammon (Bush nickname: 'Superstretch')... alternates fly-on-the-wall reportage with narrative reconstruction." -- The New York Times, September 12, 2004
"Sammon had unusual access to the president and his inner circle...we get a warts and all portrayal." -- The Washington Times, May 11, 2004
"Sammon threatens to 'out-Woodward' Woodward, who convinced only Bush and Donald Rumsfeld to speak on the record." -- Matt Drudge, May 5, 2004
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Top customer reviews
It's a great read regardless of your party. Could be a window into how power really works when you stick to your plan.
If other major American institutions were as bad we'd all be driving French cars and be drinking German beer.
"Quagmire" brought up by the press after two or three days in Iraq.
My personal favorite, "When will the war end?"
The myth of Jessica Lynch.
Jayson Blair and Howell Raines.
I could go on and on and Sammons does. He names names for the most part.
The sad part is the press remains influential despite the fact that it has been terribly WRONG.
The pertinent question is: When and how will the MEDIA fix itself?
Unlike the military, the press seems incapable of investigating and dealing with itself.
The President's last press conference was instructive. Three or four questions were the same: When are you going to admit you made a mistake?
When will the press admit and correct ITS mistakes?
The saturation coverage and breastbeating over Abu Gharib is a case in point. An important story, for sure, but not Watergate or the Bastille.
Highly recommend this book. Let's see it on top of the Bestseller list before the election. Both Sammons and the President deserve it!
In Misunderestimated, author Bill Sammon presents the reader with what seems to be a somewhat behind the scenes look at George W. Bush's first term in office. (It should be noted that the book is copyrighted 2004 and ends before the 2004 election; the timing matters a great deal more than you'd think it would.) Beginning with Bush's besieged appearance at the Hilton Hotel in Portland, Sammon tells the story using the words of the participants often. This strengthens the sense of glimpsing behind the scenes details and gives some of the smaller stories within the big story great emotional impact.
The main purpose of the book seems to be summed up by the subtitle "The President Battles Terrorism, John Kerry, and the Bush Haters". The trouble with that is simple: "The President" is almost a bit player in this book. The bulk of the writing is about Iraq, including a biography of Saddam Hussein, and Secretary of State Colin Powell is a larger figure than the president. "Battles... John Kerry" is a bit odd to throw in the title because Kerry doesn't make an actual appearance as a presidential candidate until the last chapter. Even then, there's little campaign information and no interaction between the two men. "Battles... Bush Haters" seems gratuitous as well; other than the first chapter, the "Bush Haters" don't seem to appear as a group and are never very well defined by Sammon. With all of that in mind, Sammon fails to live up to his own (somewhat whiny) title and earns himself 2 stars.
Sammon is an unusually biased author. Sure, there are left-wing and right-wing authors out there by the dozens, but Sammon - for the moment - stands out from the lot of them for me. First, he takes every opportunity to mock and belittle "the press" and "the media"... but on the cover, Sammon is noted to be the "Washington Times Senior White House Correspondent", making him part of the group he ridicules. Either he's got a superiority complex or he's irrational. Or both.
In addition, throughout the book, Sammon ridicules fairly constantly: he disparages Jessica Lynch for "cowering in the backseat of a Humvee" when she was taken hostage and blames only the Post for writing her as a hero, failing to mention that the Pentagon reported (April 2, 2003) that she had been shot and stabbed, even though she hadn't. He seems gleeful as he reports that she was raped, which isn't the only somewhat despicable moment on his part.
Sammon pointlessly dedicates an entire chapter to ridiculing Dan Rather's interview of Saddam Hussein, mocking Rather for being polite to Hussein, a mad man with a history of killing people who tick him off. More than anything else, Sammon seems to gloat, at every opportunity, about how Bush won not just one but two wars, referring to Afghanistan as over and Iraq as a "three week war", all the while failing to point out how many times the Bush Administration lied when they tried to implicate Hussein in the September 11th attacks. This is the problem with trying to write history as it happens - you get a lot wrong, because it's not over yet. We remain "bogged down in the quagmire" (a phrase Sammon takes exception to often) of war in both countries, and the comparisons to Vietnam (another thing that bothers Sammon) have gone on for years after both Bush and Sammon declared "Mission Accomplished".
On the up side, this is a very easy read. The riots in Portland and Bush's surprise visit to Baghdad for Thanksgiving are both very well written vignettes, as is the look at Powell's angst over his presentation to the United Nations. (A note about that portion of the book - almost word for word, it appears in a 2006 Washington Post article titled "Falling on His Sword" by Karen DeYoung; that article is an excerpt from her book Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell (Vintage), which makes me curious if she credits Sammon for it.) Even though it doesn't flow smoothly, fails to live up to the title, and is biased, it's always good to get the story from all sides and Sammon's managed to present this one in a read-able way. The only other failing, in my opinion, is that there's no index, an egregious omission in any non-fiction title.