The Bush Tragedy by Jacob Weisberg

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This is the book that cracks the code of the Bush presidency. Unstintingly yet compassionately, and with no political ax to grind, Slate editor in chief Jacob Weisberg methodically and objectively examines the family and circle of advisers who played crucial parts in George W. Bush’s historic downfall.

In this revealing and defining portrait, Weisberg uncovers the “black box” from the crash of the Bush presidency. Using in-depth research, revealing analysis, and keen psychological acuity, Weisberg explores the whole Bush story. Distilling all that has been previously written about Bush into a defining portrait, he illuminates the fateful choices and key decisions that led George W., and thereby the country, into its current predicament. Weisberg gives the tragedy a historical and literary frame, comparing Bush not just to previous American leaders, but also to Shakespeare’s Prince Hal, who rises from ne’er-do-well youth to become the warrior king Henry V.

Here is the bitter and fascinating truth of the early years of the Bush dynasty, with never-before-revealed information about the conflict between the two patriarchs on George W.’s father’s side of the family–the one an upright pillar of the community, the other a rowdy playboy–and how that schism would later shape and twist the younger George Bush; his father, a hero of war, business, and Republican politics whose accomplishments George W. would attempt to copy and whose absences he would resent; his mother, Barbara, who suffered from insecurity, depression, and deep dissatisfaction with her role as housewife; and his younger brother Jeb, seen by his parents as steadier, stronger, and the son most likely to succeed.

Weisberg also anatomizes the replacement family Bush surrounded himself with in Washington, a group he thought could help him correct the mistakes he felt had destroyed his father’s presidency: Karl Rove, who led Bush astray by pursuing his own historical ambitions and transforming the president into a deeply polarizing figure; Dick Cheney, whose obsessive quest to restore presidential power and protect the country after 9/11 caused Bush and America to lose the world’s respect; and, finally, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice, who encouraged Bush’s foreign policy illusions and abetted his flight from reality.

Delving as no other biography has into Bush’s religious beliefs–which are presented as at once opportunistic and sincere–The Bush Tragedy is an essential work that is sure to become a standard reference for any future assessment. It is the most balanced and compelling account of a sitting president ever written.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Jacob Weisberg

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Jacob Weisberg is the editor in chief of Slate. He previously worked for The New Republic and was a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, and a columnist for the Financial Times. Weisberg is the inventor of the “Bushisms” series. He is also the author, with Robert Rubin, of In an Uncertain World. Weisberg’s first book, In Defense of Government, was published in 1996.From the Hardcover edition.
Published January 15, 2008 by Random House. 304 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Bush Tragedy

The New York Times

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Jacob Weisberg contends that George W. Bush's relationship with his father “lies at the very core of the second Bush presidency and its spectacular, avoidable flame-out.”

Feb 01 2008 | Read Full Review of The Bush Tragedy

The New York Times

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Jacob Weisberg argues that George W. Bush’s presidency has been driven by his psychological needs.

Mar 02 2008 | Read Full Review of The Bush Tragedy

The New York Times

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“The Bushes as we know them today are the product of a combination of — one might say the combustion between — the two very different families arrayed around these two dominant men.”

Feb 01 2008 | Read Full Review of The Bush Tragedy

The Guardian

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Starring Sean Penn as George W Bush, Clint Eastwood as Poppy Bush, Meryl Streep as Barbara and Russell Crowe as Karl Rove.

Feb 23 2008 | Read Full Review of The Bush Tragedy


Siegel uses historical data to show that since 1802, stocks have returned an average of around 7 percent a year, better than any other asset class, with less risk.

Apr 04 2009 | Read Full Review of The Bush Tragedy

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