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The Bush Tragedy

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  415 ratings  ·  98 reviews
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 bo
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Published January 15th 2008 by Random House (first published 2008)
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Joe
Book twenty of my Presidential Challenge.

I'm nearing the halfway point of my challenge and some tough decisions have to be made. Decision points if you will. Do I put off reading about Dubya? I knew if I wasn't careful I'd put this one off until the very end and I was dreading the hell out of that so I bit the bullet and got this one from the library.

Man, was I dreading this. I'll paraphrase Indiana Jones when I say, George W. Bush, I hate this guy. I just wanted him to fade away and paint his w
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Jane
I'm a thorough anti-Bushite who believes he's lead (or more accurately NOT lead) this country into a domestic and foreign relations/policy mess that will take decades to clean-up. And that's when I'm optimistic.
I picked the book up after having read the reviews promising that it was an objective look at how Bush got us to this point. My goal was to actually be able to read something about the man that would not make me start yelling back at the pages.
This really is an objective overview as to ho
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Jack
Okay, so I said it was time to take a break from books on Iraq for my blood pressure's sake. But this isn't a book about Iraq exclusively; it's about Bush...and exploring his personality and how it has driven his presidency, including in Iraq. That might mitigate this as a "lapse."

There is also something appealling in how Weisberg treats the failures of the Bush presidency, which is to say, he just accepts in his intro that the presidency is a failure, and does not belabor the argument in his te
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Ed
The Bush presidency as viewed through the lens of family psychology or as Harold Blum might put it: Freud as viewed by Shakespeare. Makes a convincing case that the Bush family history and George W Bush's personal demons explain much about the presidency. Moreover, Shakespeare's Henry iv parts 1 and 2 and Henry V also throw considerable light on Bush's behavior and psyche. Interestingly, Bush treated the man who put in the White House, Karl Rove, like a servant and didn't even invite him to his ...more
Dan
Generally, a very well-researched and reported work by a well-respected journalist. Only quibble is that Weisberg strains a little to hard to cast Bush pere et fils in their own personal Henry IV/V cycle and is a little heavy with the pop psychology. Bush, unprepared for his role as a wartime president, falls back on the two things which got him through his bout with the bottle: a rather unsophisticated faith and personal force of will. Good tools for self-help, but not diplomacy. Into this void ...more
Ray
The author begins his story well before Bush 43’s presidency, going back to earlier Bush and Walker generations for traits and characteristics. Actually, the author seems to go back much earlier than that, alluding to parallels between George Bush #43 and Shakespeare’s Prince Hal from Henry IV and Henry V. In those plays, Prince Hal starts as a wild, undisciplined Prince, unsuited to kingship, and as he evolves to become a mature man, declares that his riotous time will come to a close, and he w ...more
matt


As far as I'm concerned, the three books which give you the whole picture on GWB are David Corn's "The Lies of George W Bush", Hatfield's "Fortunate Son" (and the movie "Horns and Halos", which is about the poor bastard's tortured biographical efforts and subsequent pillorying upon release. It's a sad, sad tale well worth the viewing) and this one.

Weisberg's already a crack political essayist, thinker, and reporter for the eponymous Slate magazine. This book gives a graceful, measured, even-hand
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Dmitry
This book is sober and only occasionally vicious. Without sarcasm or paranoia it provides a well-documented, level-headed explanation for the major mistakes made by the major players in Bush's administration. With regard to the personalities involved (the two Bushes', Cheney's and Karl Rove's), although it references Freud's book on Woodrow Wilson, it does not engage in remote sensory psychoanalysis, but draws straightforward, reasonable inferences from established, universally acknowledged even ...more
Gramma Lo
Mar 20, 2008 Gramma Lo rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: political junkies
Shelves: political-junkie
This is a fascinating look at George W. Bush -- the man and his presidency -- from the point of view of his family background and significant adult relationships. The chapters on W's extended family background, his relationships with Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, and the evolution of his foreign policy are especially compelling.

Weisberg uses Shakeseare's plays, Henry IV Parts I and II and Henry V, to highlight how W's relationship with his father has been a consistent influence in his decision-mak
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Nick Smith
Feb 16, 2008 Nick Smith rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Democrats and disappointed Republicans, anyone interested in political theory
Though at times Weisberg's reliance on his Henriad metaphor gets in the way of his argument (not to mention it carries just the kind of intellectualizing that Bush would hate), overall this is a fascinating psychological study of Bush and the failure of his presidency, combining keen insight with hard facts for an involving read. And the Henriad metaphor is pretty well-drawn, even if I think it's called back too often. One can only hope that our next president, Republican or Democrat, actually c ...more
Marguerite
Aug 02, 2008 Marguerite rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Voters
Recommended to Marguerite by: Mom
A great explanation of why W is the way he is, and why he did what he did. I could have done without the Henry IV, Henry V Shakespeare parallels, but I found the modern-day conjecture (Yes, in the end it's still conjecture) totally plausible. And, even though it's billed as a tragedy, Weisberg had some fun with it. It's laugh-aloud silly at times, particularly in the chapters on Bush's religious language (as opposed to any real beliefs) and Karl Rove and his "Brokeback Mountain" lusting after Ju ...more
Carol Storm
Loved this book -- worth it for the Shakespearean parallels alone!
David
I read this book in two intense bursts of hate-stalgia. (Don't you remember how pure your hatred was back then, how alienated you felt from your country?) But the book wasn't just a trip down bad memory lane and taught me quite a bit. I'd love to make a movie about Karl Rove, whose story is far stranger and sadder than I ever knew. (W. won't even invite him to his birthday parties!) And then there's Cheney, whose belief in presidential power is stressed time and again, not as a matter of expedie ...more
Marsha
Weisburg looks at Bush and Walker family traits, the relationship between Bush & his parents, the psychology of the families, plus Rove and Chaney and how it affected the policies and decisions of the Bush administration. Gave me another perspective for thinking about politicians and politics. Added another facet to my critical decision making thoughts, that I think, will help me to better analyze politics and politicians in the future.
Brian Ayres
A lot of the information Weisberg melds together is rehashed from previous works on the Bush dyanasty, Dick Cheney and Karl Rover. However, his thesis that Bush 43's life resembles a Shakespearean tragedy was interesting to read. This book provides a sound personality assessment of a president who will more than likely go down as leading eight of the most wasted years in the previous 100 in this country.

Ellie Revert
Jan 07, 2011 Ellie Revert rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all those who can vote
Recommended to Ellie by: a good review
Painful to read, but even more painful to live through this administration. How can we Americans get it so wrong---and then do it a second time?? Very well written. 3 years later--started reading, forgot I'd read it before--would give it 2 stars---and now find that it's already in "my books"--so I am letting it go partway through and wondering about my sanity, my memory!
Mark
As with most things about the Bush admin. my interest is tempered by my disgust. Only got about 100 pages into this thing. My entire 30s have been spent with this horrible person and his cohorts in charge of America. It's a depressing notion.
Paul Toth
Jesus Christ, for a while, I thought I was beginning to feel something approaching empathy. But in the end, it cannot be denied that the tragedy is ours, and so my empathy was actually directed towards myself, as usual.
Jason
I feel like I should apologize for voting for GWB. I beg your forgivness.
Elisabeth
Dysfunctional family screws up the entire world...
Maria Miller
Riveting....and freakin' scary.
Dan Cohen

I enjoyed this book for the history it paints of W and the attempt to explain much of his behaviour and politics in terms of his relationship with his father. Right at the start of the book, the author recounts how Bushes senior and junior dismiss some types of analysis as "psychobabble", And then, as if to antagonise them, he proceeds to give us a whole book of it! I have some sympathy with this particular Bushist opinion but find it difficult to argue with the core arguments in the book, even
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Hotavio
In this criticism of Bush, Weisberg argues that the largest motive behind Bush's disastrous decision making was to out-do his father, '31'. Weisberg comically relays the Bush legacy to the Shakespearean Henry V. Outlined is the Bush family tree and its contribution to W's competitiveness, Bush's dismal career as a student and businessman, his manipulation of religion to garner support despite his tarnished name, his ascension to a powerful presidency only to be 'used' by neo-cons such as Cheney ...more
Fawaz Ali
In this book, Jacob Weisberg examines the failed and soon to be-disastrous-presidency of George W. Bush. In drawing a portrait of the 43rd president, Weisberg said that the failure of Bush as a president is deep rooted in his psyche and his family's upbringing. Weisberg moves on to examine the tragedy of a president who wanted to surpass his father's accomplishments and therefore leave his own foot prints in the history books. According to Weisberg, Bush thought that history will judge him one d ...more
Jc
On one level I find this a fascinating discussion of what made Dubya Dubya. But it is interesting as well on another, broader level.

A year ago I read LBJ: Architect of American Ambition (R. Woods). I really got into Woods using Johnson as a vehicle to describe the scope and history of 20th century American politics, especially that of the Dem. party. It was a great look at the whos, hows, and whys that shaped America up to 1970 or so (which of course is central to what followed). And, it was a
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Kathleen Hagen
The Bush Tragedy, by Jacob Weisberg. Narrated by Robertson Dean, produced by Blackstone Audio, downloaded from audible.com.

Publisher’s note:
In this first important consideration of the George W. Bush presidency and its profound impact on the state of the world, Jacob Weisberg crafts a wide-ranging
portrait that is both balanced and insightful. Weisberg traces the evolution of Bush's political philosophy from its roots in his early life and his years
as governor of Texas through the events of 9/11
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Chris Aylott
Some good history here, and I agree with Weisberg's thesis that George W. Bush is driven by the contradictory desires to emulate, compete with, and distance himself from his father. I'm familiar with these feelings, and I suspect many other sons of successful fathers are too.

But there is a nasty, scornful edge to this book that doesn't sit well with me. Weisberg claims objectivity early on, but somehow even W's better traits are portrayed in the worst possible light. The man has plenty of flaws,
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Romina
I'm impressed with this book. It keeps and objective tone while undertaking a layered approach to understanding "Dubya's" development, motivations and nature. We all know what the wide world thinks about him now, but these deeply analysed facts and key moments helps me to better understand this man, this situation.

I read it out of curiosity; I like biographies and I wanted to know, belatedly, what drove #43 throughout his position in office.

The author succeeds in fleshing out the different peri
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Kurt
Weisberg sets up an interesting prism for viewing the failed Bush presidency -- his relationships with a number of other people (H.W., Cheney, Rove, etc.). It sometimes strays into shifting some of the blame onto these other actors, or explaining Bush's destructive policies as mere expressions of his flawed personality, but it's not quite an apologist book. The tragedy of the title, though, is not his presidency. It's more complicated than that -- more like the line of Bush men and Bush's life i ...more
Murray
In attempting to make psychological sense about George W. Bush, Weisberg pushes the argument too far and evokes a stream of psychobabble. He likens Dubya to Prince Hal and everything that follows is forced into that framework. In an attempt to make one of my least favorite presidents look bad he actually excuses Dubya from just being incompetent.
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Jacob Weisberg is an American political journalist, serving as editor-in-chief of Slate Group, a division of The Washington Post Company. Weisberg is also a Newsweek columnist. He served as the editor of Slate magazine for six years, until stepping down in June 2008. He is the son of Lois Weisberg, a Chicago social activist and connector celebrated in Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point. Wei ...more
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George W. Bushisms: The Slate Book of Accidental Wit and Wisdom of Our 43rd President The Deluxe Election Edition Bushisms: The First Term, in His Own Special Words More George W. Bushisms: More of Slate's Accidental Wit and Wisdom of Our 43rd President Still More George W. Bushisms: "Neither in French nor in English nor in Mexican" George W. Bushisms V: New Ways to Harm Our Country

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