Examining the Bush Legacy: George W. Bush’s “Decision Points” & Julian Zelizer’s “The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment”

THE BUSH PRESIDENCY: GEORGE W. BUSH’S “DECISION POINTS”:

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

George W. Bush JPG

DECISION POINTS by GEORGE W. BUSH, Crown, 2010

The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment Edited by Julian E. Zelizer, Princeton University Press, 2010

INTRO:

President George W. Bush’s awaited memoirs Decision Points will be released on this Tuesday, November 9th from Crown, an imprint of Random House. The book is being shielded from the public until its release date however; a few copies have been released to the press. The New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, and USA Today are among the media who received advanced copies, and are leaking excerpts from the memoirs.

Early reviews have ranged widely from the lukewarm reception in the Washington Post, ‘Competent, readable and flat’ Decision Points JPG to the Washington Times glowing comments calling it it as ‘strikingly personal’, while Time has ranked Decision Points as the #2 political memoir of all time. As the publishing date gets closer, more news sources are releasing reviews of Decision Point, most are positive and some rather enthusiastic; the Christian Science Monitor hails “It’s a page- turner.”

One of the major evaluating points has been how personal Bush gets in recounting events of his presidency; the NYT claims that Bush was not one for introspection, writing; “”Decision Points” lacks the emotional precision and evocative power of his wife Laura’s book, “Spoken From the Heart,” published earlier this year, though it’s a considerably more substantial effort than Mr. Bush’s perfunctory 1999 campaign memoir, “A Charge to Keep.”” While north of the border the Montreal Gazette headlines “Dubya gets personal in memoirs.”

Crown is expecting a huge demand for the memoirs, and has ordered an initial first printing of 1.5 million copies. The book is being released in a plentitude of formats, including a deluxe multimedia e-book, which includes audio, video, letters and speeches. It is an unprecedented e-book publication, and will only be available in Amazon.com’s Kindle format. A deluxe hardcover version will be released later on November 30th.

Decision Points is divided into 14 chapters. Each chapter examines a particular defining moment in Bush’s life and presidency, including “Day of Fire” about 9/11, “Stem Cells”, “Katrina” and “Financial Crisis.” Bush opens his memoirs with the chapter “Quitting”, and the words, “It was a simple question, ‘Can you remember the last day you didn’t have a drink?'” discussing his decision to stop drinking.

Some of the previews of the memoir appearing in the media range from revelations about Bush’s reaction to 9/11, consideration to drop his Vice President, Richard Cheney from the ticket in his 2004 re-election bid, regret over the release of the photo showing him flying over New Orleans in Air Force One after Hurricane Katrina to resoluteness concerning his decisions with Iraq, stem cell research, and the financial crisis. Bush has emphasized the lowest point of his presidency was when rapper Kayne West called Bush a racist, because he deemed the President was being indifferent to black New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and it’s aftermath.

This upcoming week Bush will be taking to the road to promote Decision Points, signing books in Miami and Dallas and making high profile appearances on a special interview with Matt Lauer on NBC, Monday at 8pm, and then Oprah on Tuesday. Other stops on the publicity rounds include interviews with Jay Leno, Candy Crowley on CNN on TV and with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity on the radio. Bush will also appear on Fox News. Bush is also including his family when he is interviewed; wife Laura Bush, and his parents Barbara Bush and former President George H. W. Bush, and brother former Florida Governor Jeb Bush will appear alongside him at various points this week. Early clips and excerpts show Oprah attempting to get Bush to give his opinions on President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin however, Bush wants to stay out of the political fray.

Coinciding with the publication of Decision Points, Princeton University Press released last month Princeton University Professor Julian E. Zelizer’s edited book The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment. The scholarly work attempts to begin the historical examination of Bush’s presidency and legacy by examining in twelve essays every facet of Bush’s two terms in office, and examine the Bush presidency in relations to Obama’s Presidency. It looks not to take sides about Bush, but to look at his presidency through the prism of historical perspective.

The following includes some of the articles and excerpts released from the press about President Bush’s Decision Points and Julian Zelizer’s The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment:

COMMENTS & REVIEWS

     

  • Book review: ‘Decision Points’ by George W. Bush: The former president delivers an unexpectedly engrossing rehash of what he considers to be the pivotal moments of his eight years in office. The first great American autobiographies both appeared in the 19th century, were born of conflict and written by public men — “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass” and “The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.” Since then, what we might call the publishing-industrial complex has turned the reminiscences of our public men and women into a never-ending stream. As former President George W. Bush — barely two years out of office — points out in the acknowledgement of his memoir, “Decision Points,” virtually every member of his extended, very political family has published a bestseller, including his parents’ dogs. Where does Bush’s account of his astonishingly eventful eight years rank in such company? Probably far higher than many of his detractors expected. As Bush writes in “Decision Points,” he enjoys surprising those who underestimate him. As the title suggests, the former chief executive elected to abandon the usual chronological approach to these volumes (except for a brief, obligatory foray into childhood and school years) in favor of his recollection of his presidency’s key choices and the personal decisions that Bush says prepared him to make them…. – LAT, 11-9-10
  • Global reaction to Bush’s ‘Decision Points’ memoir: It’s a page-turner: George W. Bush’s ‘Decision Points’ memoir is attracting global scrutiny for its views on everything from the Abu Ghraib scandal to Israel’s bombing of Syria to rapper Kanye West…. – CS Monitor, 11-8-10
  • Dubya gets personal in memoirs: Almost two years after leaving the White House as one of the most polarizing presidents in American history, Bush returns to the public arena Tuesday with the publication of a candid memoir, Decision Points, that recounts everything from his personal struggles with alcohol to an admission of failure in his leadership after Hurricane Katrina.
    Through a steady stream of publicity leaks and pre-publication interview excerpts, Americans already know many of the book’s highlights — including Bush’s revelation that he considered dropping Dick Cheney from the 2004 Republican ticket and his disgust with rapper Kanye West’s post-Katrina accusation that he didn’t care about black people. Almost two years after leaving the White House as one of the most polarizing presidents in history, Bush returns to the public arena Tuesday with the publication of a candid memoir, Decision Points, that reveals everything from his personal struggles with alcohol to his disappointment in having failed to capture Osama bin Laden…. – Montreal Gazette
  • Personality Intersects With Policy: George W. Bush’s memoir “Decision Points” could well have been titled “The Decider Decides”: it’s an autobiography focused around “the most consequential decisions” of his presidency and his personal life from his decision to give up drinking in 1986 to his decision to invade Iraq in 2003 to his decisions regarding the financial crisis of 2008. It is a book that is part spin, part mea culpa, part family scrapbook, part self-conscious effort to (re)shape his political legacy.
    A dogged work of reminiscence by an author not naturally given to introspection, “Decision Points” lacks the emotional precision and evocative power of his wife, Laura’s, book, “Spoken From the Heart,” published earlier this year, though it’s a considerably more substantial effort than Mr. Bush’s perfunctory 1999 campaign memoir, “A Charge to Keep.”… – NYT, 11-4-10
  • Top 10 Political Memoirs: While George W. Bush’s new memoir Decision Points doesn’t hit bookshelves until Nov. 9, it has already managed to make waves. TIME takes a look at other memorable political autobiographies… 2. George W. Bush, Decision Points, 2010: The Decider has written a book called Decision Points. George W. Bush’s presidential memoir — which covers key decisions he made from 1986 (when he vowed to stop drinking) to 2008 (when he found himself faced with the start of the financial crisis) — seems to be more honest than anyone expected. Bush still defends the Iraq war, yet describes a “sickening feeling” whenever he thinks about the absence of weapons of mass destruction. He talks about wishing he had handled Hurricane Katrina better. He refers to Dick Cheney as “the Darth Vader of the administration” and says he considered dropping him from the 2004 presidential ticket. And he relates a strange anecdote about Vladimir Putin’s assertion that his pet Labrador was “bigger, stronger, faster” than Bush’s Scottish terrier, Barney. “You’re lucky he only showed you his dog,” quipped Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper upon hearing the story. Time, 11-6-10
  • George W. Bush’s ‘Decision Points’: ‘Competent, readable and flat’: All is sweet reason in “Decision Points,” George W. Bush’s account of his eight-year presidency and some of the events — quitting drinking, serving as governor of Texas — that preceded it. To be sure there are a few hints of the pugnacity Americans came to know so well — barbs directed at the press, the professoriate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a few other sitting ducks — but Bush as he presents himself here is calm, deliberative, reasonable, open-minded, God-fearing, loyal, trustworthy, patriotic.
    This should come as no surprise. The presidential memoir as it has evolved, especially in the wake of recent presidencies, is not a memoir as the term is commonly understood — an attempt to examine and interpret the writer’s life — but an attempt to write history before the historians get their hands on it. Yes, from time to time mistakes must be acknowledged — on the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, for instance, “I had sent American troops into combat based in large part on intelligence that proved false,” or on Katrina, “The problem was not that I made the wrong decisions. It was that I took too long to decide” — but the clear purpose of these non-apologies is to humanize the person making them, and to make us like him better for making them…. – WaPo, 11-6-10
  • Leaked Bush memoir ‘strikingly personal’: An anonymous source on Thursday leaked former President George W. Bush’s memoir to the Drudge Report 11 days before its scheduled publication. Excerpts from “Decision Points” have put Mr. Bush back on public radar after a long absence; the 14-chapter book is deemed a “strikingly personal” look at the president’s challenges, personal convictions and faith, and it takes few shots at his critics…. – The Washington Times, 10-29-10

THE HEADLINES….

     

  • Bush memoir ‘Decision Points’ sells 220,000 copies on first day: Former President George W. Bush’s memoir “Decision Points” sold at least 220,000 copies through its first day of release, with more than 20 per cent generated by e-book purchases.
    Random House Inc. announced Wednesday that opening-day sales, which include preorders and represent 95 per cent of accounts reporting, was the publisher’s highest for nonfiction since former President Clinton’s “My Life” debuted with 400,000 in 2004. Bush’s book came out Tuesday with an announced first printing of 1.5 million copies, the same as Clinton’s did.
    Random House said that e-sales were 50,000 so far, a number unthinkable when “My Life” was published…. – CP, 11-10-10
  • Bush to speak in Chicago Thursday: Former president George W. Bush will speak at the Union League Club in downtown Chicago as part of his “Decision Points” book tour Thursday. The event will takes place at 8:45 a.m…. – ABC Local, 11-10-10
  • George Bush ‘Decision Points’ – how many books will he sell?: Publishers of President Bush’s ‘Decision Points’ have printed up 1.5 million copies. President Bill Clinton’s ‘My Life’ sold 606,000 in its first week, and has totaled 2.2 million since…. – CS Monitor, 11-10-10
  • Room for forgiveness on Bush book tour: Former President George W. Bush’s media blitz to sell his new book seems carefully designed to minimize surprises, although he got one Wednesday in a surprise rapprochement with Kanye West. The rapper says now that he “didn’t have the grounds” to call Bush a racist after Hurricane Katrina. The former president was shown tape of West’s comments in a live “Today” show interview and said he appreciated West’s regret.
    Bush has primarily favored the leaders of their respective fields in an effort to spread his salesmanship as wide as possible: NBC News, Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh, Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno. ABC, CBS and CNN were deemphasized or left behind entirely.
    In an earlier media era, Matt Lauer’s one-hour taped interview with Bush would have been jealously guarded until airtime, said Jim Bell, executive producer of the “Today” show. Instead, it was sliced and diced and spread around various outlets: clips aired on “Today” last Thursday and Friday and on “Nightly News.” A business-oriented response was sent to CNBC, and political comments to MSNBC and further quotes out to local NBC affiliates. MSNBC is airing an expanded, two-hour version of the interview this weekend.
    Monday’s prime-time special wasn’t a big seller, finishing fourth in its time slot with more than 7 million viewers, the Nielsen Co. said. That’s generally a tough night for NBC, and the interview did slightly better than “Chuck” usually does in the time slot…. – AP, 11-10-10
  • Former President Bush Uses New Book, Media Tour to Defend His Legacy: Tuesday marks the official release of former President George W. Bush’s memoir, “Decision Points,” in which he reflects on the most significant decisions he made as president, as well as in his personal life. Mr. Bush’s media blitz to promote the book began Monday night in a taped interview with Matt Lauer of NBC News that saw the former president accept blame for some controversial decisions while giving a forceful defense of others…. – PBS Newshour, 11-9-10
  • Decision Points, the George W. Bush memoir, released: George W. Bush is on a book tour to promote his memoir “Decision Points.”… – WaPo, 11-9-10
  • In memoir, Bush defends waterboarding, admits mistakes: After staying largely mum on the political scene since leaving office almost two years ago, former President George W. Bush will reveal his thoughts on the most historic — and controversial — parts of his presidency with the release of his memoir Tuesday. In the 481-page book, Bush shares his thoughts on the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina and what he calls the “worst moment” of his presidency…. – CNN, 11-9-10
  • Bush book praised in Dallas, criticized overseas: Autograph-seekers descended on a Dallas shopping center Tuesday as former President George W. Bush officially kicked off the release of his new memoir, receiving praise for his candor at a hometown bookstore even as his renewed defense of waterboarding as an interrogation tactic was greeted with derision overseas. First in line at the Borders store about a mile from Bush’s Dallas home were Terry and Tammy Jones of suburban Justin, who camped out overnight. They said when they told Bush of their wait, he said he’d sign their books “with admiration,” shaking 53-year-old Terry Jones’ hand and kissing his wife’s. “Eighteen hours for two seconds and a kiss on the hand,” Tammy Jones, 52, said with a smile. Terry Jones said he admired Bush because “when he makes a decision, he sticks with it.”
    But such steadfastness also prompted criticism Tuesday in Europe, where reports about Bush’s memoir “Decision Points” focused on waterboarding…. – AP, 11-9-10
  • George W. Bush Begins Publicity Tour: President George W. Bush is starting to do the rounds promoting his new book “Decision Points.” He spoke with NBC’s Matt Lauer on the Today Show. In the book and in the interview he defended the decision to invade Iraq, even though the casus belli, weapons of mass destruction, was a mirage.
    “Was there ever any consideration of apologizing to the American people?” Lauer asked. 

    “I mean, apologizing would basically say the decision was a wrong decision,” Bush replied. “And I don’t believe it was the wrong decision. I thought the best way to handle this was to find out why. And what went wrong. And to remedy it.”
    In his book, Bush writes, “There were things we got wrong in Iraq, but that cause is eternally right.”
    Bush also spoke with the Times of London. Both in the book and the interview he strongly defended the use of waterboarding.(yes, they have a pay wall)
    In an interview with The Times, the former US President offered a vigorous defence of the coercive interrogation technique: “Three people were waterboarded and I believe that decision saved lives.” He denied that waterboarding, which simulates drowning, amounted to torture.
    Asked if he authorised the use of waterboarding to get information from the captured al-Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he was unequivocal: “Damn right!” In his new book he writes: “Their interrogations helped break up plots to attack American diplomatic facilities abroad, Heathrow airport and Canary Wharf in London, and multiple targets in the United States.” – NPR, 11-9-10

  • Was George W. Bush Willing to Endorse Barack Obama?: He called himself The Decider, but as former president George W. Bush emerges from his self-imposed exile to promote his new book, he’s become The Denier. Specifically, he’s been busy denying rumors about his contempt for John McCain. On Friday, the Daily News quoted a “Republican official familiar with Bush’s thinking” who claimed that Bush thought McCain “destroyed any chance of winning by picking Palin” and was “less of a man” for doing so. He wouldn’t be the first one to think that, but on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show yesterday, Bush insisted, “I never said that, never would have said that.”
    Yesterday, an even more intriguing story appeared on a blog of the Financial Times. Alex Barker writes of his “favourite Bush anecdote,” which “some of the witnesses still dine out on”:
    The venue was the Oval Office. A group of British dignitaries, including Gordon Brown, were paying a visit. It was at the height of the 2008 presidential election campaign, not long after Bush publicly endorsed John McCain as his successor.
    Naturally the election came up in conversation. Trying to be even-handed and polite, the Brits said something diplomatic about McCain’s campaign, expecting Bush to express some warm words of support for the Republican candidate.
    Not a chance. “I probably won’t even vote for the guy,” Bush told the group, according to two people present. “I had to endorse him. But I’d have endorsed Obama if they’d asked me.” Now, Bush not voting for McCain and giving him a forced endorsement, sure, we can buy that. The two never had a great relationship following their bitter primary battle in 2000, and in Decision Points, Bush laments that McCain kept his distance in the 2008 campaign. He also writes that McCain was unimpressive in their meeting during the financial crisis.
    But endorsing Obama?… A Bush spokesman says, “This is ridiculous and untrue. President Bush proudly supported John McCain in the election and voted for him.” – NY Mag, 11-10-10
  • 2,500 show up for Bush book signing in Dallas: An estimated 2,500 people showed up at a North Dallas Borders bookstore to get an autographed copy of George W. Bush’s first memoir, the bookseller reports. But the former president could put his John Hancock on only 1,300 copies of Decision Points and on 500 bookplates for the legion of unlucky buyers. In a news release, Borders noted that Bush signed 500 copies more than expected (800) and that hundreds of others in line would receive a signed bookplate later. First in line were Terry and Tammy Jones of Justin, Texas, who camped out overnight after arriving at the store yesterday about 2 p.m. They bought four books Bush autographed, met him briefly, and beamed, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. “I waited 18 hours for two seconds and a kiss on my hand. I’m never washing this hand again,” Tammy Jones said…. – USA Today, 11-9-10
  • Bush is back, and eager to help history judge him: George W. Bush knows that history will shape his legacy more than anything he can say. But that’s not gonna stop a guy from trying. After two years of near silence, Bush is back.
    With his new memoir, “Decision Points,” and a promotion tour, the president who in cockier times could not think of a single mistake he had made, lists many. He counts the years without a post-9/11 attack as his transcendent achievement. He says the economic calamity he handed off to Barack Obama was “one ugly way to end a presidency.”… – AP, 11-8-10
  • “Decision Points”: George Bush’s view of his presidency: In his new memoir “Decision Points,” George W. Bush weighs in on the Iraq war, the financial crisis, Hurricane Katrina, John McCain’s 2008 campaign, and other episodes in his presidency…. – CS Monitor, 11-7-10
  • Busy week awaits author George W. Bush: Former President George W. Bush will be highly visible next week when his memoir, Decision Points, goes on sale. According to reports from copies that were leaked this week, Bush writes that he considered replacing Vice President Dick Cheney, that he personally signed off on water-boarding as an interrogation technique and that he considers it a mistake to have flown over – but not landed near – the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The book release comes a week ahead of the groundbreaking for Bush’s presidential library at Southern Methodist University on Nov. 16…. – The Dallas Morning News, 11-6-10
  • John McCain looks bad in George W. Bush’s book: Sen. John McCain never asked then-President George W. Bush to campaign for him in 2008, though Bush thinks he could have helped the Arizona senator. In his forthcoming memoir, “Decision Points,” Bush explores his “complex relationship” with McCain. “I understood he had to establish his independence,” Bush wrote. “I thought it looked defensive for John to distance himself from me. I was confident I could have helped him make his case. But the decision was his. I was disappointed I couldn’t do more to help him.” The 43rd president suggests his opponent for the Republican nomination in 2000 blew an opportunity to capitalize politically on the financial crisis eight years later. Without saying it explicitly, Bush portrays then-Sen. Barack Obama as more presidential than McCain in his handling of the financial crisis…. – Politico, 11-6-10
  • George W Bush says he was ‘blindsided’ by financial crisis: George W Bush, the former US president, has said that he was “blindsided” by the financial crisis that began at the end of his final term in office…. – Telegragh UK, 11-9-10
  • George W Bush memoir ‘Decision Points’ to go on sale: George W Bush will on Monday begin a media blitz that will thrust him back into the lives of Americans after two years of near silent retirement. The former US president campaign to rehabilitate his reputation in multiple interviews and television appearances to publicise the memoir, which is published this week both in the US and UK.
    He will be on screens and the airwaves every day for a week, conducting interviews with giants of American broadcasting such as Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno. On Winfrey’s show he will be accompanied by his parents, former President George Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush, while his wife Laura will join him on a breakfast television appearance…. – Telegraph (UK), 11-7-10
  • George Bush: I was not in shock on 9/11 In memoirs and TV interview, George Bush says he wanted to project calm after 9/11 attacks: They were the seven minutes that, for some, came to define a presidency. On one side of the TV screen, a New York landmark was in flames after hijacked planes smashed into the World Trade Centre. On the other, George Bush sat before a group of children looking like a startled rabbit, conveying a sense of paralysis, if not panic, after an aide told him of the attacks.
    But Bush says that anyone who thinks he was in shock has got it wrong. He was trying not to create panic. “My first reaction was anger. How dare they do this to America?” Bush told NBC News in an interview to be broadcast on Monday to coincide with the release of his memoirs.
    “I made the decision not to jump up and create a chaotic scene, because right after … These are quick reflections, anger, duty to protect the country, and then all of a sudden the cellphones are ringing. Now, the noise [from reporters receiving calls about the attacks],” he said. “But it clarified to me that people were going to be watching my reaction. And I’d had enough experience as governor of Texas during some disasters to know that the reaction of the leader is essential in the first stage of any crisis.”
    Pressed on whether he was paralysed into inaction, Bush was dismissive. “I’m not going to debate the critics as to whether or not I was in shock or not. I wasn’t. And they can read the book, and they can draw their own conclusion,” he said.
    Bush’s book, Decision Points, offers insights into his beliefs, including a vigorous defence of the death penalty in an argument over dinner with Cherie Blair. Much of it is dedicated to justifying what some consider to be indefensible, not least his invasion of Iraq on what proved to be the spurious pretext of hunting for weapons of mass destruction. The former president acknowledges there were dissenters on the question of whether to go to war. He claims he was among them.
    “I was a dissenting voice. I didn’t want to use force. I mean force is the last option for a president,” he said. But he told NBC there was no need for an apology. “I mean apologising would basically say the decision was a wrong decision. And I don’t believe it was the wrong decision,” he said…. – Guardian UK, 11-3-10
  • In memoir, Bush says he considered dropping Cheney from 2004 ticket: Former president George W. Bush once considered replacing his vice president, Richard B. Cheney, Bush says in a revealing memoir in which he offers advice on the U.S. economy and admits mistakes on Iraq and Hurricane Katrina. Bush’s book, “Decision Points,” is full of anecdotes and behind-the-scenes details of eight eventful years that began with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and ended with an economic meltdown in which “I felt like the captain of a sinking ship.”
    “No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn’t find the weapons. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do,” Bush writes.
    Bush writes that he considered the offer, adding that although Cheney “helped with important parts of our base, he had become a lightning rod for criticism from the media and the left.”
    Although Bush did not like Cheney’s image as described by critics, accepting his resignation offer would help “demonstrate that I was in charge,” he writes…. – WaPo, 11-3-10
  • In book, Bush strongly defends use of waterboarding: When then-President George W. Bush was asked to approve a tough interrogation technique known as waterboarding on September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he wasted little time in deciding. “Damn right,” he said. Bush’s approval of waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning condemned by human rights activists as torture, to try to wrench information from captured al Qaeda operatives was among the most controversial decisions he made during eight years in the White House.
    In his memoir, “Decision Points,” Bush strongly defends the use of waterboarding as critical to his efforts to prevent a repeat of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. He says waterboarding was limited to three detainees and led to intelligence breakthroughs that thwarted attacks. The book, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, is to hit bookstores on Tuesday. He writes that his ability to prevent another September 11 attack on U.S. soil was “my most meaningful accomplishment.”… – Reuters, 11-4-10
  • Bush rejects accusations of racism over Katrina: Former President George W. Bush says criticism from some, including prominent rapper Kanye West, that his handling of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina showed he did not care about black people represented “an all-time low.” In his memoir, “Decision Points,” to be released next Tuesday, Bush writes that charges flung at him that he was a racist during the Katrina crisis “was the worst moment of my presidency.”
    In excerpts of an interview of Bush by NBC’s “Today” show to be aired next Monday, the former president was asked about West’s comment that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
    “And I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now. It’s one thing to say, ‘I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘this man’s a racist,'” Bush said. “I resent it, it’s not true,” Bush said. “And it was one of the most disgusting moments in my presidency.” He said his record was strong “when it came to race relations and giving people a chance.”
    Bush writes in his book, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, that his initial mistake on Katrina was failing to communicate his concern for the storm’s victims. He said he should not have done an Air Force One flyover of New Orleans while much of the city was under water. “The photo of my hovering over the damage suggested I was detached from the suffering on the ground. That wasn’t how I felt. But once the public impression was formed, I couldn’t change it,” he writes…. – Reuters, 11-3-10
  • Ex-President George W. Bush rips wisdom of Barack Obama, Sarah Palin and John McCain to friends: “Naming Palin makes Bush think less of McCain as a man,” a Republican official familiar with Bush’s thinking told the Daily News. “He thinks McCain ran a lousy campaign with an unqualified running mate and destroyed any chance of winning by picking Palin.” “I want my President to succeed because if my President succeeds my country succeeds, and I want my country to succeed,” Bush typically says when asked about Obama.
    “He won’t call Obama by name but he won’t trash him,” a confidant noted, referring to Bush’s comments in post- presidency speaking appearances, which have netted him millions, often at $100,000 or more a pop. Still, he thinks Obama has failed as a President – a judgment supported by this week’s robust Republican gains. “He thinks the policy is adrift,” one insider reported. NY Daily News, 11-5-10
  • Bush’s memoir explains: U.S. can’t appear to be doing Israel’s bidding: In excerpts released from soon-to-be-published book, ex-president says was asked by then PM Olmert to strike Syria’s nuclear reactor…. – Haaretz, 11-7-10
  • Bush/Nixon: The early reviews of George W. Bush’s memoir “Decision Points” are already out, even though the book is under a sales embargo until next Tuesday. If you want to read one of the book’s “deluxe” copies — the hand-numbered, hand- signed edition that comes with a slipcase, a “special color photo frontispiecE” and a $350 price tag — you’ll have to wait even longer, until Nov. 30. Bush may have left office with rock-bottom approval ratings. But if the experience of another unpopular ex-president is any guide, both editions of his book may do surprisingly well…. – NY, 11-6-10
  • Bush memoir coming with huge first printing: We’re one month and a day away from the launch of George W. Bush’s presidential memoir “Decision Points.” The former president’s book, which goes on sale on Nov. 9, will have a huge first printing of 1.5 million copies, Crown Publishers said in a statement on Thursday.
    Bush writes about crucial points in his life and presidency including his decision to run for the highest office in the country; 9/11; the decisions to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq; his response to Hurricane Katrina; and his relationship with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, Crown said.
    But there’s so much more than just a book (and book tour) coming next month. The publishers are simultaneously rolling out the whole kit and caboodle — across multiple platforms — with the hardcover version, an e-book edition, a Deluxe e-book edition and an audiobook (from RandomHouse), read by the author himself… – Reuters, 10-8-10
  • George W. Bush starting to emerge from cone of silence: President No. 43 gave a lecture at the University of Texas in Tyler, Texas, on Tuesday and spoke before a sold-out crowd of 2,000 people. All this is according to the Tyler newspaper. Bush talked up a book he has written about major decisions he made as president, “Decision Points,” which is to be published on Nov. 9. The author will be doing a number of major interviews surrounding the publication of his memoir, including with a Facebook fan.
    “This will come as a shock to some people in our country who didn’t think I could read a book, much less write one,” he joked… “I miss being pampered. I miss Air Force One. I miss being commander-in-chief of an awesome group of (people),” he said.
    Bush said Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told him, “If you don’t do something significant, you’re likely to see a depression greater than the Great Depression.”… “Depression, no depression,” Bush said. “It wasn’t that hard for me, just so you know. I made the decision to use your money to prevent the collapse from happening.”
    Bush also said he read a dozen biographies of Abraham Lincoln while in office, and, “I think he’s the country’s greatest president.” Reuters, 10-20-10

EXCERPTS

     

  • Excerpt: President Bush in his own words on 9/11, Iraq In ‘Decision Points,’ he describes moments of high emotion, prayer:
    “While my emotions might have been similar to those of most Americans, my duties were not,” President Bush writes of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “There would be time later to mourn. … But first I had to manage the crisis.”
    In his new memoir “Decision Points,” President George W. Bush shares candid, never-before-heard details about his presidency. This excerpt conveys the emotions Bush felt in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the decision to go to war in Iraq.
    The Secret Service wanted to get me to Air Force One, and fast. As the motorcade charged down Florida Route 41, I called Condi from the secure phone in the limo. She told me there had been a third plane crash, this one into the Pentagon. I sat back in my seat and absorbed her words. My thoughts clarified: The first plane could have been an accident. The second was definitely an attack. The third was a declaration of war.
    My blood was boiling. We were going to find out who did this, and kick their ass. …
    … I stepped into the presidential cabin and asked to be alone. I thought about the fear that must have seized the passengers on those planes and the grief that would grip the families of the dead. So many people had lost their loved ones with no warning. I prayed that God would comfort the suffering and guide the country through this trial. I thought of the lyrics from one of my favorite hymns, “God of Grace and God of Glory”: “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour.”
    While my emotions might have been similar to those of most Americans, my duties were not. There would be time later to mourn. There would be an opportunity to seek justice. But first I had to manage the crisis. We had suffered the most devastating surprise attack since Pearl Harbor. An enemy had struck our capital for the first time since the War of 1812. In a single morning, the purpose of my presidency had grown clear: to protect our people and defend our freedom that had come under attack …
    … The collapse of the towers magnified the catastrophe. Fifty thousand people worked in the buildings on a typical business day. Some had been evacuated, but I wondered how many were left. Thousands? Tens of thousands? I had no idea. But I was certain that I had just watched more Americans die than any president in history.
    I kept up-to-date on the latest developments by calling Dick and Condi in the PEOC (Presidential Emergency Operations Center). We tried to establish an open line, but it kept dropping. …
    … When we did receive information, it was often contradictory and sometimes downright wrong. I was experiencing the fog of war. There were reports of a bomb at the State Department, a fire on the National Mall, a hijacked Korean airliner bound for the United States, and a call-in threat to Air Force One. The caller had used the plane’s code name, Angel, which few people knew. The most bizarre report came when I was informed of a high-speed object flying toward our ranch in Crawford. All of this information later proved to be false. But given the circumstances, we took every report seriously.
    One report I received proved true. A fourth plane had gone down somewhere in Pennsylvania. “Did we shoot it down, or did it crash?” I asked Dick Cheney. Nobody knew. I felt sick to my stomach. Had I ordered the death of those innocent Americans? 

    On Wednesday, March 19, 2003, I walked into a meeting I had hoped would not be necessary.
    The National Security Council had gathered in the White House Situation Room, a nerve center of communications equipment and duty officers on the ground floor of the West Wing. The top center square of the secure video screen showed General Tommy Franks sitting with his senior deputies at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. In the other five boxes were our lead Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, and Special Operations commanders. Their counterparts from the British Armed Forces and Australian Defense Forces joined as well.
    I asked each man two questions: Do you have everything you need to win? And are you comfortable with the strategy?
    Each commander answered affirmatively.
    Tommy spoke last. “Mr. President,” the commanding general said, “this force is ready.”
    I turned to Don Rumsfeld. “Mr. Secretary,” I said, “for the peace of the world and the benefit and freedom of the Iraqi people, I hereby give the order to execute Operation Iraqi Freedom. May God bless the troops.”
    Tommy snapped a salute. “Mr. President,” he said, “may God bless America.”
    As I saluted back, the gravity of the moment hit me. For more than a year, I had tried to address the threat from Saddam Hussein without war. We had rallied an international coalition to pressure him to come clean about his weapons of mass destruction programs. We had obtained a unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution making clear there would be serious consequences for continued defiance. We had reached out to Arab nations about taking Saddam into exile. I had given Saddam and his sons a final forty-eight hours to avoid war. The dictator rejected every opportunity. The only logical conclusion was that he had something to hide, something so important that he was willing to go to war for it.
    I knew the consequences my order would bring. I had wept with widows of troops lost in Afghanistan. I had hugged children who no longer had a mom or a dad. I did not want to send Americans into combat again. But after the nightmare of 9/11, I had vowed to do what was necessary to protect the country. Letting a sworn enemy of America refuse to account for his weapons of mass destruction was a risk I could not afford to take.
    I needed time to absorb the emotions of the moment. I left the Situation Room, walked up the stairs and through the Oval Office, and took a slow, silent lap around the South Lawn. I prayed for our troops, for the safety of the country, and for strength in the days ahead. Spot, our springer spaniel, bounded out of the White House toward me. It was comforting to see a friend. Her happiness contrasted with the heaviness in my heart.
    There was one man who understood what I was feeling. I sat down at my desk in the Treaty Room and scrawled out a letter:
    Dear Dad, …
    At around 9:30 a.m., I gave the order to SecDef to execute the war plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom. In spite of the fact that I had decided a few months ago to use force, if need be, to liberate Iraq and rid the country of WMD, the decision was an emotional one. …
    I know I have taken the right action and do pray few will lose life. Iraq will be free, the world will be safer. The emotion of the moment has passed and now I wait word on the covert action that is taking place.
    I know what you went through.
    Love,
    George
    MSNBC, 11-8-10

  • “Decision Points”: Other revelations from the new George W. Bush memoir: Was banned from the Princeton campus after a game where he led fellow Yalie undergrads to tear down the goalposts. (“All these years later I still haven’t been back.”) Yeah, he had been drinking.
    Climbed onstage at a 1976 Willie Nelson concert in Odessa, Tex. (“I looked like a fool up there.”) Yeah, he had been drinking.
    After he gave up drinking at 40, got seriously into running. And chocolate. “My body was screaming for sugar.”
    He and Laura were close to adopting when they found out she was pregnant with twins.
    The twins’ reaction to his presidential bid: “Dad, you’re going to lose. You’re not as cool as you think you are,” and “Why do you want to ruin our lives?”
    Knew he was going to get along with Tony and Cherie Blair when, during their first meeting at Camp David, the Brits picked “Meet the Parents” as an after-dinner movie. (“There was no stuffiness.”)
    Totally pulled Josh Bolten’s leg just before his first meeting with Bono: “Used to be married to Cher, didn’t he?”
    Vladimir Putin made a point of introducing his big black Labrador during a visit to Russia. “Bigger, stronger, and faster than Barney,” Putin smirked. Later, Canadian PM Stephen Harper told Bush, “You’re lucky he only showed you his dog.” – WaPo, 11-8-10
  • Inside Bush’s White House: A preview of W.’s memoir: Former U.S. president George W. Bush’s memoir, Decision Points, is due to be released next Tuesday, but excerpts are already circulating.
    Outside observers might pick his decision to go to war in Iraq, based on the non-evidence of weapons of mass destructions. But although Mr. Bush admits to “a sickening feeling” about being proved wrong, it was Kanye West’s description of him as racist that really hit home. “George W. Bush doesn’t care about black people” the rapper said during a post-Katrina telethon. Mr. Bush calls the incident “one of the most disgusting moments in my presidency.”… “Damn right,” Mr. Bush said when asked by the Central Intelligence Agency whether agents should employ the coercive and controversial interrogation technique against the terror suspect. “Had I not authorized waterboarding on senior al-Qaeda leaders, I would have had to accept a greater risk that the country would be attacked.”… 

    Says he felt “blindsided” over the Abu Ghraib scandal Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, “had told me the military was investigating reports of abuse at the prison, but I had no idea how graphic or grotesque the photos would be,” he writes. “The first time I saw them was the day they were aired on 60 Minutes II.”
    … “We were blindsided by a financial crisis that had been more than a decade in the making.” His focus, he writes, “had been kitchen-table economic issues like jobs and inflation. I assumed any major credit troubles would have been flagged by the regulators or rating agencies.”…
    Detainees were given “a personal copy of the Koran” and access to a library among whose popular offerings was “an Arabic translation of Harry Potter.”…
    “There was no way I was going to let a group of retired officers bully me into pushing out the civilian secretary of defense. It would have looked like a military coup and would have set a disastrous precedent.”… “Why hadn’t I thought of Bob?” Mr. Bush wonders….
    “While Dick helped with important parts of our base, he had become a lightning rod for criticism from the media and the left. He was seen as dark and heartless – the Darth Vader of the administration.”… “Accepting Dick’s offer would be one way to demonstrate that I was in charge.”… Mr. Cheney pushed Mr. Bush to pardon Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice-president’s former chief of staff who was convicted of lying in the CIA leak case. Mr. Bush wrestled with the decision in his final weekend at Camp David so much his wife, Laura, finally told him, “Just make up your mind. You’re ruining this for everyone.” When he decided against a pardon, Mr. Cheney was bitter: “I can’t believe you’re going to leave a soldier on the battlefield,” he said. “The comment stung,” Mr. Bush writes. “In eight years, I had never seen Dick like this, or even close to it.” – National Post, 11-5-10

  • George W. Bush on Alcohol: ‘It Became a Love’: “It became a love and, therefore, began to compete for my love with my wife and my daughters,” he said, according to People.com. “I wasn’t a knee-walkin’ drunk,” Bush said in his interview with Lauer. “I could easily have a beer or two, or a martini, before dinner, bourbons, B&Bs. I was a drinker.”
    In an interview promoting his memoir, “Decision Points,” the 43rd president said he got caught driving drunk on Labor Day weekend in 1976 after a night of “drinking no hands at a bar” — meaning he picked up and tossed back a drink using only his mouth. Bush didn’t discuss the DUI until days before the 2000 election, when it became a scandal. Trying to keep the story under wraps for so long is a choice that Bush considers “one of the top stupidest decisions I made.” “Was really a bad choice. And if I had to do it — look, you don’t get to do it over again. But if I had to do it over again, of course I would have disclosed. I mean there was nothing to hide. I — yeah, I drank too much. I had been pulled over. And I quit. It was a good story with a good ending, poorly timed.”
    “So I’m drunk at the dinner table at Mother and Dad’s house in Maine. And my brothers and sister are there, Laura’s there. And I’m sitting next to a beautiful woman, friend of Mother and Dad’s,” he said, according to the magazine. “And I said to her out loud, ‘What is sex like after 50?'” The room went silent, and Bush said his wife and mother gave him “serious daggers.” Bush said he later apologized to the woman. Though drinking took its toll, Bush says his inebriation came to an end years before his inauguration. The former president noted that he gave up drinking cold turkey on his 40th birthday in 1986 and hasn’t had a sip since…. – AOL News, 11-5-10
  • Putin to Bush: My dog bigger than yours: Russian leader Vladimir Putin once boasted to then-President George W. Bush about the size of his dog, in the ultimate of “mine-is-bigger-than-yours” stories. Former President Bush writes about the episode in his memoir, “Decision Points,” which hits book stores next Tuesday. Bush says he had introduced then-Russian President Putin to his Scottish terrier, Barney, on a visit to the U.S. presidential retreat, Camp David. Putin returned the favour when Bush visited Russia and Putin was giving him a tour of the grounds of his dacha. “A big black Labrador came charging across the lawn. With a twinkle in his eye, Vladimir said, ‘Bigger, stronger, faster than Barney,'” Bush writes. A copy of the book was obtained by Reuters. Bush says he later told the story to the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, who replied: “You’re lucky he only showed you his dog.”… – Times Live, 11-6-10
  • Drudge Report: Decision Points Excerpts & Preview: BUSH MAKES PEACE: BOOK REVEALED “It was a simple question, ‘Can you remember the last day you didn’t have a drink?'” So begins President George W. Bush in the opening chapter [“Quitting”] from the most anticipated book of the season, the DRUDGE REPORT can reveal. With DECISION POINTS, set for release November 9, Bush pulls back the curtain with a strikingly personal work that takes very few shots at his critics. The former president even stays clear of Obama! – Drudge Report, 10-28-10

INTERVIEWS

     

  • West, Bush and “Today” Show Spar Over “Racist” Remark: The three-way verbal sparring began when Bush hit the promotional circuit for “Decision Points” and was asked about passages that address comments West made on a television fund-raiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina. On the program West said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” In the book and in his own interview earlier this week on “Today,” Bush told Lauer the comment upset him. “He called me a racist…I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now.”
    “Today” then pursued an interview with West, which will air on Thursday, November 11. When asked by Lauer about those past comments, West seemed to soften his stance about the former president.
    “I would tell George Bush in my moment of frustration that I didn’t have the grounds to call him a racist. But I believe that in a situation of high emotion, like that, we as human beings don’t always choose the right words,” he said.
    On Wednesday, Bush responded by saying, “I appreciate that. It wasn’t just Kanye West who was talking like that during Katrina. I cited him as an example. I cited others as an example as well. And, I appreciate that.”… – ABC News, 11-10-10
  • UPDATED: Kanye West Criticizes ‘Today’ Show for ‘Brutal’ Interview: One of several messages posted by Kanye West on his Twitter account after he taped an interview with the “Today” show. An occasionally contentious interview between Kanye West and Matt Lauer taped for NBC’s “Today” show in some ways conforms with a preemptive critique that Mr. West posted on his Twitter account, but at times appears to contradict the rapper’s fiery recollection of it.
    On Tuesday night, Mr. West wrote of an interview he recorded that morning with Mr. Lauer, a “Today” co-host. Mr. West said he intended to respond to remarks by former President George W. Bush, who has said that Mr. West’s criticism that he did not care about black people after Hurricane Katrina was “one of the most disgusting moments” of his presidency.
    Mr. West wrote on his Twitter feed, “I went up there to express how I was empathetic to Bush because I labeled him a racist and years later I got labeled as a racist.” Instead, Mr. West said, “While I was trying to give the interview they started playing the ‘MTV’ under me with audio,” referring to the incident in which Mr. West interrupted an acceptance speech by Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. In an all-caps message, Mr. West wrote that Mr. Lauer “tried to force my answers,” adding, “It was very brutal and I came there only with positive intent.”… – NYT, 11-10-10
  • Kanye called in to a Houston radio station the next day and apologized for the comments, saying, “I definitely can understand the way he feels to be accused of being a racist in any way, because the same thing happened to me,” he said, referring to criticism he got following his 2009 bum-rush of Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards. “I got accused of being a racist, and …… with both situations it was a lack of compassion that America… — Kanye West – MTV
  • Unusually reflective Bush gives his side of the story: This isn’t the George W. Bush who couldn’t come up with an answer when he was asked during a 2004 White House news conference to name his biggest mistake. Almost two years after leaving office, the former president readily lists his mistakes. He recites a litany of errors in an interview and in his new book, Decision Points: He didn’t act swiftly enough after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He should not have drawn down U.S. troops from Iraq so quickly. He wishes he had focused first on immigration instead of an unsuccessful overhaul of Social Security during his second term.
    “I readily concede I could have done things better,” he says in his first newspaper interview since leaving the presidency. To document his administration for future historians, “I had to concede that I did make mistakes, and there was no question I did.”
    Bush says he was “blindsided” by the financial meltdown that shook the nation during his final year in office, but he shares blame with Congress and defends his decisions when asked about the role of his policies in the recession.
    Bush is unusually introspective as he speaks about his administration, his feelings about being the target of mockery and the shape of his post-presidency. He makes it clear that after he promotes his book with a round of media appearances, he will step out of the spotlight again. During an hour-long interview, he never mentions President Obama’s name…. – USA Today, 11-9-10
  • Oprah Fails to Question Bush on Important Aspects of His Legacy: Former president George W. Bush being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on Nov. 11, 2010. If someone were to ask you what the dominant political issue is at the moment, you’d probably say the national debt or extension of the Bush tax cuts. The most controversial political fight of the last two years? Surely health-care reform. So, when former president George W. Bush granted a long televised interview to promote his new memoir—which is to say, as Bush attempts to polish his tarnished reputation—you’d think he would be asked about his budget- busting tax cuts and the creation of a Medicare prescription-drug benefit. You would be wrong. Like Matt Lauer Monday night, Oprah Winfrey, in her gauzy interview with Bush on Tuesday afternoon, did not ask a single question about those policies…. – Newsweek, 11-10-10
  • Bush admits mistakes, defends decisions In memoir, he candidly writes about professional, personal regrets: President George W. Bush will join Matt Lauer for a live sit-down interview on TODAY on Wednesday, Nov. 10. Former President George W. Bush admits in his memoir “Decision Points” that his 2003 “Mission Accomplished” speech and his demeanor in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina were some of the professional and personal mistakes that he made. In his first one-on-one television interview since leaving the White House, the former president sat down with Matt Lauer and opened up about his regrets…. – MSNBC, 11-8-10
  • Bush recounts Katrina, WMD mistakes on talk show: George W. Bush recounted the mistakes of his presidency on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show as he launched a book tour to promote his just-released memoir “Decision Points.”
    The former president said he still feels “sick about” the fact no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. His response to Hurricane Katrina could have been quicker, he said, and he should have landed Air Force One two days after the storm instead of viewing the destruction through the plane’s window. And he said he didn’t see the financial meltdown coming.
    The former president appeared Tuesday in a taped episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Writing the memoir, he said, “was an easy process” that has kept him busy. “A lot of people don’t think I can read, much less write,” Bush joked on the program…. – AP, 11-9-10
  • George W. Bush calls Katrina photo a ‘huge mistake’: “Let’s get to the picture that we may have seen more of you in the last couple years of your presidency than any other picture,” Lauer said. “You’re sitting in Air Force One, flying back toward Washington. You fly right over New Orleans and you look out the window.”
    “Yes,” Bush responded. “Huge mistake.”
    LAUER: Yeah. And in comes the press and they take that picture. And it made you look so out of touch.
    BUSH: Detached and uncaring. No question about it.
    LAUER: Whose fault was it?
    BUSH: It’s always my fault. I mean I was the one who should have said, A, don’t take my picture, B, let’s land in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, C, let’s don’t even come close to the area. Let’s — the next place to be seen is in Washington at a command center. I mean, it was my fault.
    LAUER: When the picture’s released you write, “I immediately knew it was a problem.”
    BUSH: Of course. I’d been around long enough to know that when it was released. And the reason why we didn’t land in Louisiana is because I was concerned that first responders would be pulled off their task and I’d be criticized. In retrospect, however, I should have touched down in Baton Rouge, met with the governor and walked out and said, “I hear you. We understand. And we’re going to help the state and help the local governments with as much resources as needed.” And then got back on a flight up to Washington. I did not do that. And paid a price for it. – Yahoo News, 11-5-10
  • Cheney angered by Bush decision on Scooter Libby pardon: Mr Bush told NBC News his decision at the end of his presidency merely to spare Libby a prison sentence rather than pardon him angered Mr Cheney. But, in a interview to promote a book, he said the friendship had recovered.
    “We are friends today,” Mr Bush said. “I was a little concerned at the time. It was a hard decision at the time but that’s what you do when you’re president, you make hard decisions.”
    Lewis Libby, also known by his nickname, “Scooter” Libby, was found guilty in March 2007 in the case connected to Mr Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Mr Bush said the prison sentence was excessive and commuted it…. – BBC News, 11-8-10
  • Bush: Mother’s miscarriage shaped pro-life views In memoir, he recalls driving her to hospital with fetus in jar: Bush writes about the miscarriage in his book, “Decision Points,” publicly disclosing it for the first time after receiving permission from his mother to do so. He sat down with Matt Lauer for his first one-on-one television interview since leaving the White House. When Barbara Bush miscarried at home, she had young George drive her to the hospital. In her lap, Barbara Bush held a jar containing the remains of the fetus, George Bush said. 0 “She says to her teenage kid, “Here’s a fetus,'” the former president told Lauer. “No question it — that affected me — my philosophy that we should respect life.” Recalling what he saw in the jar, Bush wrote, “There was a human life, a little brother or sister.”… – MSNBC, 11-8-10
  • A Content Man: In an interview with Matt Lauer, Bush describes himself as “a content man.”
    No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn’t find the weapons. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do.
    I mean, apologizing would basically say the decision was a wrong decision… And I don’t believe it was the wrong decision.
    It’s one thing to say, ‘I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘This man’s a racist.’ I resent it. It’s not true. And it was one of the most disgusting moments in my presidency.
    I made an additional mistake by failing to adequately communicate my concern for the victims of Katrina. This was a problem of perception, not reality. My heart broke at the sight of helpless people trapped on their rooftops waiting to be rescued.
    If I invoked the Insurrection Act against [Governor Kathleen Blanco’s] wishes, the world would see a male Republican president usurping the authority of a female Democratic governor by declaring an insurrection in a largely African- American city. … I was as frustrated as I had been at any point in my presidency…. – New Yorker, 11-3-10
  • Bush won’t critique Obama (or Palin): “I want to treat my successor the way I’d like to have been treated,” Bush tells Oprah Winfrey in an interview tied to release of his memoirs, Decision Points. “I don’t think it’s good for a former president to be out there opining on every darned issue,” Bush adds. “He’s got a plenty tough job. Trust me. And there’s gonna be plenty of critics and he doesn’t need me criticizing him. And I don’t think it’s good for the presidency. Other people have a different point of view.”
    The Oprah interview airs Nov. 9, the day of the book’s official release.
    Here, according to a transcript provided by Oprah’s people, Winfrey tries to draw out Bush on Sarah Palin: OPRAH: So your brother Jeb was recently asked by CNN if he would support Sarah Palin for president. Did you hear that? In 2012. PRES. BUSH: Yeah.
    OPRAH: And he responded, “You betcha.” Do you think that Sarah Palin is the one for the Republican party in 2012?
    PRES. BUSH: You know, I am not a political pundit. I’m really not. And secondly, a lot is gonna happen between now and the nominating process. I — I have no clue.
    OPRAH: I’m not asking you to pundit.
    PRES. BUSH: Yeah, you are.
    OPRAH: I’m just asking you your opinion.
    PRES. BUSH: You’re asking me to wade back into the swamp.
    OPRAH: Come on in. Come on in.
    USA Topday, 11-6-10

THE PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE W. BUSH: A FIRST HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT

     

  • The historians whose essays appear in this book do not attempt to resolve this debate. The chapters catalogue some of the successes of the administration, ranging from counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda between 2001 and The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment JPG 2003 through AIDS policy in Africa to the appointment of minorities to prominent government positions. They also examine some of the failures, including the damage caused by the war in Iraq, the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, and the devastating collapse of financial markets following years of deregulation in the fall of 2008. Rather than speculate whether he was the worst or the best president in U.S. history, the contributors have attempted to place the Bush White House in a broader historical perspective by understanding his presidency in relationship to the conservative movement.The authors of the essays in this book are trying to write a first take on the history of this period, but one that builds on the rich literature on the history of conservatism in modern America. We hope the essays provoke further investigation. Since this is an early effort to write the history of the George W. Bush presidency, the work is necessarily incomplete. We do not yet have access to some archival materials that will become available in the future. Yet, in addition to the substantial documentation instantaneously available in the age of the Internet, the contributors also have the advantage of producing this interpretation at a time when the emotions and sentiment and context of President Bush’s actions are still vivid. We hope these essays offer the opening to a conversation that will continue for centuries. — Julian E. Zelizer in “The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment”
  • Julian Zelizer: Five myths about George W. Bush: I am very much looking forward to this chat about President George W. Bush and his legacy. In several of my recent publications, including an article in the Washington Post yesterday and a new book that I edited, The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment, I have tried to move beyond some of the existing debate. Rather than answer whether Bush is the “best or worst” president or to repeat discussions about why people hated or loved him, the time has come to start understanding what actually happened when he was in office, to place these events and personalities in broader context, and to start understanding his presidency in relationship to President Obama’s.
    Besides some of the more familiar issues that shaped his presidency, such as 9/11 and the war on terrorism, looking back from 2010 raises new kinds of questions that might not have been as obvious at the time that his term ended: What impact did Bush have on the conservative movement? What was the relationship between deregulation during these years and the economic collapse in 2008? How did the economic policies of the period influence economic inequality? What was the relationship between President Bush and congressional Republicans? How did Bush overcome some of the obstacles that Obama has struggled in the political process? Did the Bush Doctrine really constitute as much as a turning point in U.S. foreign policy as it seemed at the time? How do we evaluate the impact of the Surge–and what did the decision-making behind that policy tell us about how the White House worked? How did President Bush come to push for a substantial expansion of government–through TARP–in the middle of the economic crisis? What impact did the 2006 elections have on the politics of his presidency? Which policies will outlast his presidency and why?
    Obviously these are just a few questions and there are many more to discuss. But the time has come to start thinking more seriously about this two-term president and the impact that he had on the nation. It is also to start developing a more sophisticated understanding of the roots of this administration rather than writing about these years as if everything started in 2001…. – WaPo, 11-8-10
  • “An all-star cast of historians examines the perplexing presidency of George W. Bush–the ‘compassionate conservative’ who frequently ended up allied with the hard right, the ‘uniter’ who presided over one of the nation’s most divisive political eras, the advocate of ‘humility’ on the world stage who fiercely championed unilateral presidential powers. After the journalists and pundits have had their say, the historians are here to put Bush’s tumultuous tenure in historical perspective. An essential resource for anyone seeking to understand contemporary American politics.” — Jacob S. Hacker, coauthor of Winner-Take-All Politics and Off Center
  • “With clarity and precision, some of America’s most prominent historians of politics, law, and international relations examine the controversial presidency of George W. Bush. Their assessments of Bush’s administration are sober, rigorous, and eye-opening. Together these essays will provide a foundation for the next generation of scholarship on early twenty-first-century America.” — Thomas J. Sugrue, author of Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race
  • “George W. Bush once stated that ‘we’ll all be dead’ by the time history casts its judgment on his presidency. Instead, in this engaging and timely portrait of the Bush era, eleven leading scholars assess the ‘war on terror,’ the resurrection of the imperial presidency, the effects of tax cuts and corporate deregulation, and other foreign and domestic policies promoted by big-government conservatism. While acknowledging the administration’s political accomplishments, the contributors to this volume emphasize the ultimate failures of the Bush presidency and the conservative movement’s strategies of governance.” — Matthew D. Lassiter, University of Michigan
  • “Analytically shrewd and historically rich, this harvest of a book convenes a group of leading historians to assess the country’s recent past. Ranging from tax cuts to terrorism, and encompassing questions of ideology, multiculturalism, and presidential capacity, the contributions to this volume establish the scope and agenda for future studies of George W. Bush’s tumultuous presidency.” — Ira Katznelson, Columbia University
  • “This impressive collection features brilliant essays by some of America’s best historians on the presidency of George W. Bush. It’s all here–from the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision that sealed Bush’s first-term victory to the stunning financial crisis that closed his tenure in office. This stimulating and highly accessible volume is must reading for scholars, journalists, and concerned citizens.” — Eric M. Patashnik, author of Reforms at Risk
  • “This is a superb collection of essays. I am impressed with the range of issues they cover and the lucidity with which each essay illuminates a particular topic. Their interleaved and overlapping evidence reminds a general reader of the layers of meaning embedded in every political decision taken by the Bush administration–and the sometimes unfortunate consequences. This is an important and timely book.” — Alice Kessler-Harris, author of In Pursuit of Equity

HISTORIANS’ VIEW

     

  • Bush Releases Memoir: ‘He Knows the Historians Are Coming’: In his new memoir “Decision Points,” former President George W. Bush explains some of the tough decisions he made while in office, including how he dealt with 9/11, the lack of weapons of mass destruction and Hurricane Katrina. Historians Michael Beschloss and Julian Zelizer give perspective on presidential memoirs…. – PBS Newshour, 11-10-10
  • Kanye West, George W. Bush Clash Doesn’t Surprise Historian: Bush is ‘trying to show he’s not coming out of a racist tradition,’ political author says….
    “For the last 40 years, pop culture has become much more important in politics,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a leading figure in the field of American political history. “[It’s become about] how a president fits into pop culture and his relationship to some stars, whose political activism has increased over the past 40 years. … I do think the lines between celebrity culture and political culture have thinned.”…
    Zelizer — author of books about the presidencies of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush — said Bush’s revelation that West’s remark hurt his feelings is a remarkable moment in the confluence of West Wing and pop culture.
    “That it elicited the kind of emotion that nothing else does, even criticism about torture … part of it is a celebrity attacking him, but it’s also a bigger issue that bothers [Bush]. This idea that he’s trying to show he’s not coming out of a racist tradition and distinguish himself, that shows a broader frustration about how he’s perceived,” Zelizer said… But when they clash with pop-culture figures, Zelizer said, it’s a testament to the power of both players. “It’s not beneath the president” to beef with a star, he said. Whereas in the past presidents might not have bothered to respond to such slights, or would have ignored them, some modern Oval Office residents have weighed in, even when they’re not the subject of the dis….
    “The reality is, like it or not, that celebrities have lots of influence in contemporary life,” he said. “In theory, it might be beneath them [to respond to stars’ attacks] because there are other things they should be worried about, but presidents will take it personally. It will get to them, maybe more by being attacked by Kanye West than a member of Congress because of the reality of the world we live in.” – MTV, 11-10-10
  • Julian Zelizer: 5 myths about George W. Bush: September 11. Katrina. Iraq. These events will be forever linked with the presidency of George W. Bush. Now, with the release of his memoir, “Decision Points,” the former president has the chance to defend his record and explain his actions. But as historians and the public alike look back on the Bush White House, will we be able to move past the persistent myths that endure about those tumultuous eight years?…
    1. George W. Bush was an uninformed Texas cowboy….
    2. Compassionate conservatism was just a campaign slogan….
    3. Bush committed America to nation-building projects in Iraq and Afghanistan….
    4. Dick Cheney ran the Bush White House….
    5. Bush left conservatism in ruins.
    WaPo, 11-3-10
  • Shrub Studies: Next week, Crown Publishers will issue President George W. Bush’s memoir Decision Points, covering what the former president calls “eight of the most consequential years in American history,” which seems like a fair description. They were plenty consequential. To judge from the promotional video, Bush will plumb the depths of his insight that it is the role of a president to be “the decider.” Again, it’s hard to argue with his point — though you have to wonder if he shouldn’t let his accumulated wisdom ripen and mellow for a while before serving it.
    Princeton University Press has already beat him into print with The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment, edited by Julian E. Zelizer, who is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton. The other 10 contributors are professors of history, international relations, law, and political science, and they cover the expected bases — the “War on Terror,” the invasion of Iraq, social and economic policy, religion and race. It is a scholarly book, which means that it is bound to make everybody mad. People on the left get angry at remembering the Bush years, while those on the right grow indignant that anyone still wants to talk about them. So the notion that they were consequential is perhaps not totally uncontroversial after all.
    The contributors make three points about the Bush administration’s place in the history of American conservatism that it may be timely to sum up, just now…. – Inside Higher Ed, 11-3-10
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History Buzz November 1, 8, 2010: Historians Assess Midterm Elections

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor/Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Her blog is History Musings

IN FOCUS: TED SORENSON

  • Theodore Sorensen, top JFK aide, dies at 82 in NY: Theodore C. Sorensen, the studious, star-struck aide to President John F. Kennedy whose crisp, poetic turns of phrase helped idealize and immortalize a tragically brief administration, died Sunday. He was 82. He died at noon at Manhattan’s New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center from complications of a stroke, his widow, Gillian Sorensen, said. Sorensen had been in poor health in recent years and a stroke in 2001 left him with such poor eyesight that he was unable to write his memoir, “Counselor,” published in 2008. Instead, he had to dictate it to an assistant. President Barack Obama issued a statement saying he was saddened to learn of Sorensen’s death.
    “I know his legacy will live on in the words he wrote, the causes he advanced, and the hearts of anyone who is inspired by the promise of a new frontier,” Obama said.
    Hours after his death, Gillian Sorensen told The Associated Press that although a first stroke nine years ago robbed him of much of his sight, “he managed to get back up and going.” She said he continued to give speeches and traveled, and just two weeks ago, he collaborated on the lyrics to music to be performed in January at the Kennedy Center in Washington — a symphony commemorating a half-century since Kennedy took office. “I can really say he lived to be 82 and he lived to the fullest and to the last — with vigor and pleasure and engagement,” said Gillian Sorensen, who was at his side to the last. “His mind, his memory, his speech were unaffected.” Her husband was hospitalized Oct. 22 after a second stroke that was “devastating,” she said…. – AP, 10-31-10
  • Theodore C. Sorensen, Kennedy Counselor and Wordsmith, Dies at 82: Theodore C. Sorensen, one of the last living links to John F. Kennedy’s administration, who did much to shape the president’s narrative, image and legacy, died Sunday in Manhattan. He was 82.
    He died in NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital from complications of a stroke he suffered a week ago, his wife, Gillian Sorensen, said. A previous stroke, in 2001, had taken away much of his eyesight, but in its aftermath “he led a very full life, speaking, writing, creating new enterprises and mentoring many young people,” she added.
    Mr. Sorensen once said he suspected the headline on his obituary would read: “Theodore Sorenson, Kennedy Speechwriter,” misspelling his name and misjudging his work, but he was much more. He was a political strategist and a trusted adviser on everything from election tactics to foreign policy.
    “You need a mind like Sorensen’s around you that’s clicking and clicking all the time,” President Kennedy’s archrival, Richard M. Nixon, said in 1962. He said Mr. Sorensen had “a rare gift”: the knack of finding phrases that penetrated the American psyche.
    He was best known for working with Mr. Kennedy on passages of soaring rhetoric, including the 1961 inaugural address proclaiming that “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans” and challenging citizens: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Mr. Sorensen drew on the Bible, the Gettysburg Address and the words of Thomas Jefferson and Winston Churchill as he helped hone and polish that speech…. – NYT, 10-31-10
  • JFK Adviser Theodore Sorensen (1928-2010): A Remembrance: When I first told my Uncle Ted that I was engaged, he asked without hesitation, “Is she a Democrat?” He was only half joking. It’s not that Theodore C. Sorensen, my father’s brother and the man known as the “intellectual blood bank” of President John F. Kennedy was an ideologue; he merely believed to his core that the vision of his party was crucial to the future of his family, his country and his world. And well he should — it was he, through his collaboration with Kennedy, that most elegantly and timelessly gave voice to the Democratic ideals that have come to shape modern American politics. The last of the Kennedy old guard, Sorensen was a tireless defender of his legacy. Never, privately or publicly in the years since, did he take credit for the words or actions that made the 35th President an icon of the office. The many accounts of his intimacy with the political, personal and policy decisions of Kennedy’s tenure are a testament both to the humility of the man, and his unwavering belief that what he accomplished was far more than professional triumph…. – Time, 10-31-10
  • What Ted Sorensen Taught Me About Writing: He was Kennedy’s celebrated speechwriter, but mere mortals (like me) still find him inspiring. Ted Sorensen was a hero of mine before I knew who he was. Sorensen, who died on Sunday at the age of 82 from complications following a stroke, was the primary speechwriter for John F. Kennedy. He was also an aide, a confidant, an “intellectual blood bank” (as the president once called him)—and a lawyer, a memoirist, a failed Senate candidate, among other things, though history will not remember him for them. It will remember him because he had a hand—impossible to identify, impossible to deny—in some of the most famous speeches in American history.
    I will remember him, though, because of Latin class. We were studying rhetorical devices used in Latin epics and lyric poetry. English examples were discussed: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” (chiasmus). “I speak of peace … I speak of peace … I speak of peace …” (anaphora). “We choose to go to the moon” (assonance). The words came from Kennedy—or his speechwriter, my Latin teacher offhandedly said. The word “speechwriter” itself seemed an example of a rhetorical device, a paradox. Yet the word illuminated what I loved about those lines: they were intended for the ear, not the eye. I knew then that to learn to write, I was going to have to learn to listen…. – Newsweek, 11-2-10

IN FOCUS: HALLOWEEN

  • Nicholas Rogers: The dull-ification of Halloween: Fifteen years ago, a Canadian cultural historian named published an essay in the journal Social History entitled “Halloween in Urban North America: Liminality and Hyperreality.” Sound boring? Just the opposite. Rogers, a professor of history at Toronto’s York University, spoke truth to power about All Hallows’ Eve: Stop trying to transform one of the few remaining cultural events that’s actually fun into yet another politically correct, risk-averse, religiously sanitized festival of yawns. “Halloween constitutes a time of transition when orthodox social constraints are lifted, a moment of status ambiguity and indeterminacy when ritual subjects can act out their individual or collective fantasies, hopes or anxieties.”… – Magic Valley Times-News (10-31-10)
  • Halloween ghost hunters seek old soldiers in Gettysburg: Days before Halloween on a darkened street Dwight Stoutzenberger aimed his digital camera at a wall not far from where a guide was telling ghost stories to a group of tourists. Gettysburg, a historic Civil War town, is famous for ghosts and reportedly haunted sites where uniformed soldiers mysteriously walk through closed doors, or ornaments shift positions on a mantelpiece. As Stoutzenberger scrolled through his photos he found several exposures showing a bright light amid a fuzzy white oval shape apparently hovering near the wall down the street. Tour guide Ann Griffith, who has been doing ghost tours in Gettysburg for 16 years, speculated that it could be an orb — a point of light that she says is commonly seen around haunted sites…. – Reuters, 10-29-10
  • Is Candy Evil or Just Misunderstood?: FOR Samira Kawash, a writer who lives in Brooklyn, the Jelly Bean Incident provided the spark. Five years ago, her daughter, then 3, was invited to play at the home of a new friend. At snack time, having noted the presence of sugar (in the form of juice boxes and cookies) in the kitchen, Dr. Kawash, then a Rutgers professor, brought out a few jelly beans…. – NYT (10-27-10)

HISTORY NEWS:

  • Scholars Reconsidering Italy’s Treatment of Jews in the Nazi Era: …[N]ew findings contradict the conventional belief that Italians began to enforce anti-Semitic laws only after German troops occupied the country in 1943, and then reluctantly. In a spate of studies, many of them based on a little-publicized Italian government report commissioned in 1999, researchers have uncovered a vast wartime record detailing a systematic disenfranchisement of Italy’s Jews, beginning in the summer of 1938, shortly before the Kristallnacht attacks in November…. Ilaria Pavan, a scholar at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, said a series of incrementally more onerous laws in 1939 and 1940 revoked peddlers’ permits and shopkeepers’ licenses, and required Jewish owners of businesses — as well as stock or bond holders — to sell those assets to “Aryans.” Bank accounts were ordered turned over to government authorities, ostensibly to prevent the transfer of money out of the country…. – NYT (11-5-10)
  • Righteous Among the Nations: Muslims Who Saved Jews from Holocaust: In 2003, Norman Gershman was looking for some of the righteous. What he found astonished the investment banker-turned-photographer, and led him toward a project now on display in a St. Louis synagogue…. During the years of occupation, 10 times as many Jews streamed into Albania to escape persecution from Poland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Greece and Italy. Gershman says it was the only country in Europe where the Jewish population grew by the end of the war…. All of them were motivated by an Albanian code of honor called “besa,” a concept that can be translated into “keeping the promise,” Gershman says. The Albanian villagers were motivated to risk their lives by the simple concept of helping one’s neighbor…. Ahmet Karamustafa, professor of history and religious studies at Washington University, said saving a life is a universally acknowledged Muslim value. Protecting a life, Karamustafa said, “has always ranked at the very top of moral and legal categories articulated by legal and theological scholars in Islam.”… St. Louis Post-Dispatch (11-1-10)
  • Rise of paganism in Britain linked to discrimination against women, says historian: …Ronald Hutton, Professor of History at Bristol University, says Paganism is partly a reaction to a perceived discrimination against women, practised by mainstream religions. He says: “It’s feminist. Women have an automatic place… and in some areas of Paganism they are actually in charge. And they’re working with a goddess or goddesses who are just as powerful as gods, if not more so.”… – BBC News (10-30-10)
  • Matthew Hyland: Nazis killed ‘good feelings’ associated with 3,000-year-old emblem: Matthew Hyland, professor of history at Duquesne University, said the symbol dates to Neolithic times — as far back as 3,000 years — and mainly was a symbol of good luck. “Essentially, it’s like a good luck charm, sort of a portentous symbol of good feelings,” he said. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (10-31-10)
  • Labor law has been ‘turned inside out to help the powerful,’ James A. Gross says: U.S. labor law “has been turned inside out, protecting the powerful rather than the powerless” in the 75 years since the National Labor Relations Act was enacted, a top labor historian says. “And by that standard, it’s a failure,” adds James A. Gross of the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Gross was the most provocative of many speakers at the opening Oct. 27 session of a day-and-a-half conference commemorating the 75th anniversary of the NLRA, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed on July 5, 1935…. – Workday Minnesota (10-31-10)

OP-EDs:

  • Rick Perlstein: How Obama Enables Rush: We live in a mendocracy. As in: rule by liars. Political scientists are going crazy crunching the numbers to uncover the skeleton key to understanding the Republican victory last Tuesday. – The Daily Beast (11-6-10)
  • Allan Lichtman: The Joyless Election: …[N]ever before in the history of the United States has such a sweeping victory by one political party elicited so little joy and such minimal expectations. The American voters rejected the leadership of the Democratic Party that controlled the presidency and both Houses of Congress…. Above all, this year voters repudiated the government of the United States. This is the third consecutive election in which the voters ousted the party in power. However, dissatisfaction with government extends more deeply into the American past…. – Gazette.net (MD) (11-5-10)
  • David M. Kennedy: Throwing the Bums Out for 140 Years: SO we have had three “wave” elections in a row: control of both chambers of Congress changed hands in 2006, as did the presidency in 2008, and the House flipped back to Republican domination last week. All this apparently incoherent back-and-forth has left the political class reeling and set the commentariat aflutter. Explanations for our current political volatility abound: toxic partisanship, the ever more fragmented and strident news media, high unemployment, economic upheaval and the clamorous upwelling of inchoate populist angst. But the political instability of our own time pales when compared with the late 19th century. In the Gilded Age the American ship of state pitched and yawed on a howling sea of electoral turbulence. For decades on end, “divided government” was the norm. In only 12 of the 30 years after 1870 did the same party control the House, the Senate and the White House…. – NYT (11-7-10)
  • Daniel K. Williams: A Victory for the Christian Right: Immediately after the 2010 midterm elections, the National Right to Life Committee declared the results a victory for the pro-life cause, claiming that 65 seats in Congress had switched from pro-choice to pro-life. The Family Research Council likewise declared that voters had soundly rejected President Barack Obama’s efforts to allow gays to serve openly in the military. Voters in Iowa recalled three state Supreme Court justices who had ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. Across the nation, Christian conservatives claimed victories for their cultural causes after seeing Tuesday’s election results. Why, then, did most of the media—and the Republican Party leadership—say so little about religion in the election analysis?…. – PBS (11-5-10)
  • Robert Dallek: The Long View of the Tea Party: Regardless of how many seats change hands in the election, one result is already clear: The tea party movement will, for the immediate future, influence the direction of the Republican Party…. – Politico (11-4-10)
  • Alan Brinkley: Obama vs. Tea Party: Think FDR vs. Huey Long: In the aftermath of the massive Democratic losses on Election Day, the tea party movements have proved that their efforts made a significant contribution to the Republican victories. Though only a few true tea party candidates were actually elected — most prominently Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida — there can be no doubt that the movement’s energy and anger were perhaps the crucial factor…. – Politico (11-4-10)
  • Steven M. Gillon: The Lessons of 1994: Democrats are still absorbing the electoral drubbing they suffered at the polls this week. As the New York Times reported, nearly every congressional district in America voted more Republican in 2010 than in 2008. Republicans rode a wave of well-financed and carefully orchestrated (but no less genuine) public anger at a struggling economy that shows little signs of improving. Gleeful conservative pundits are already predicting that the election marked the beginning of the end of the Obama presidency. Dispirited Democrats worry they may be right. But are they?… – Huffington Post (11-4-10)
  • Victor Davis Hanson: America Just Checked into Rehab: On Tuesday, voters rejected President Obama’s attempt to remake America in the image of an imploding Europe — not just by overwhelmingly electing Republican candidates to the House, but by preferring dozens of maverick conservatives who ran against the establishment. Why the near-historic rebuke? Out-of-control spending, unchecked borrowing, vast new entitlements, and unsustainable debt — all at a time of economic stagnation. So what is next? Like the recovering addict who checks himself into rehab, a debt-addicted America just snapped out of its borrowing binge, is waking up with the shakes, and hopes there is still a chance of recovery…. – National Review (11-4-10)

REVIEWS & FIRST CHAPTERS:

  • Stacy Schiff: Femme Fatale: CLEOPATRA A Life “Mostly,” Schiff says of “Cleopatra: A Life,” “I have restored context.” The claim stops sounding humble when we understand what it entails. Although it’s not Schiff’s purpose to present us with a feminist revision of a life plucked from antiquity, in order to “restore” Cleopatra — to see her at all — one must strip away an “encrusted myth” created by those for whom “citing her sexual prowess was evidently less discomfiting than acknowledging her intellectual gifts.” Lucan, Appian, Josephus, Dio, Suetonius, Plutarch — the poets, historians and biographers who initially depicted Cleopatra were mostly Roman and all male, writing, for the most part, a century or more after her death with the intent to portray her reign as little more than a sustained striptease…. – NYT, 11-4-10 Excerpt Books of The Times: ‘Cleopatra: A Life’, 11-2-10
  • Joseph J. Ellis: A World Unto Themselves: FIRST FAMILY Abigail and John That the Adamses succeeded both in helping to shape the American Republic and in securing for themselves a striking measure of domestic bliss was, as Joseph J. Ellis shows in “First Family: Abigail and John,” a testament to the exceptional strength and vitality of their marriage. Although beset by myriad “twitches, traumas, throbbings and tribulations” (Ellis’s purple-prosy terms) in politics and at home, John and Abigail remained passionately devoted to each other, to their family and to their country. “As I see it,” Ellis explains, “Abigail and John have much to teach us about both the reasons for that improbable success called the American Revolution and the equally startling capacity for a man and woman — husband and wife — to sustain their love over a lifetime filled with daunting challenges.”
    As one of today’s leading historians of the Revolutionary era (his books include a biography of John Adams, a National Book Award-winning biography of Thomas Jefferson and a Pulitzer Prize-winning group portrait of the founders), Ellis is more qualified than most to tell this engaging tale. Yet his reasons for doing so — and for doing so now — are less clear than his credentials…. – NYT, 11-7-10 Excerpt
  • TIM REDMAN: Book review: ‘Washington: A Life’ by Ron Chernow: In times of crisis, nations and religions often return to their origins for guidance. This fine biography represents an attempt to recover those virtues that led to our founding. Nowhere are they better seen than in George Washington. Nearly every adult American carries his portrait with them wherever they go, but the man painted by Gilbert Stuart remains enigmatic. Ron Chernow, a renowned biographer and historian, looks beyond the myths to reveal a man much greater than all of the myths combined. For 20 years, George Washington was America…. – The Dallas Morning News, 11-7-10
  • Engagements With History Punctuate Garry Wills’s life: OUTSIDE LOOKING IN Adventures of an Observer “Square,” “colorless,” “stodgy,” “unthreatening.” Those are some of the adjectives that the prolific journalist and historian Garry Wills uses to describe himself in “Outside Looking In,” his pointillistic new memoir. Off the page, all those things may (or may not) be true. On it, as countless politicians and writers have learned, having Mr. Wills sternly contemplate your work can be like having the Red Baron on your tail. “Unthreatening” is hardly the word. Writing in The New York Review of Books and other journals, he’s sent entire squadrons of shoddy works and ideas down in flames…. – NYT (11-3-10) Excerpt Interview
  • Jules Witcover’s biography of Joe Biden, reviewed by Matthew Dallek: JOE BIDEN A Life of Trial and Redemption Veteran Washington columnist Jules Witcover has published a biography of Biden that amounts to a celebratory recitation of the major private and public moments of the sitting vice president’s life. Biden’s rich and sometimes controversial career mirrors the policy achievements and political failures of the Democratic Party in modern times, and “Joe Biden” can also be read as a meditation on his Party’s troubled and occasionally triumphant trajectory since the 1960s. WaPo, 11-5-10
  • Stacy Schiff’s new biography of “Cleopatra,” reviewed by Marie Arana: CLEOPATRA A Life If you think two millennia of dusty research and hoary legend have told us all we need to know about this woman, you’re in for a surprise. Stacy Schiff, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of three highly praised biographies — of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Véra Nabokov and Benjamin Franklin — has dug through the earliest sources on Cleopatra, sorted through myth and misapprehension, tossed out the chaff of gossip, and delivered up a spirited life…. – WaPo, 11-1-10
  • A new biography of Simon Wiesenthal, by Tom Segev: SIMON WIESENTHAL The Life and Legends Plenty, as it turns out in “Simon Wiesenthal,” by Israeli journalist Tom Segev. A columnist for the newspaper Ha’aretz and the author of numerous books, Segev is one of the world’s great investigative reporters – in a class with bloodhounds like Seymour Hersh and the late David Halberstam. In this biography, the subject is not only Wiesenthal but the shifting relationship since the end of World War II of American, Israeli and European culture to what is now known as the Holocaust but was never called that in the first two decades after the war. Segev places Wiesenthal’s life within a context almost unthinkable to Americans under 50 today, for whom Holocaust memorialization is a given. That the singular fate of European Jews under the Nazis was downplayed for many years after the war and that the U.S. government was none too eager to pursue Nazi war criminals who had taken refuge here is not widely known (even among young Jews). Segev notes that the Holocaust was also “wrapped in silence” in the young state of Israel and that many Israelis who had emigrated to Palestine before the war had denigrated survivors for “remaining in Europe instead and waiting to be slaughtered without doing anything to prevent it.”… – WaPo, 11-29-10
  • Review of “OK,” a history of a favorite American expression, by Allan Metcalf: OK The Improbable History of America’s Greatest Word Probably there are as many theories about the origins of “OK” as there are theorists to expound them, but Allan Metcalf is satisfied that he knows the only one that really holds water. Relying on the work in the early 1960s of a “professor at Columbia University, scholar without equal of American English,” Metcalf reports as follows…. – WaP0, 10-29-10
  • James Kloppenberg: In Writings of Obama, a Philosophy Is Unearthed: When the Harvard historian James T. Kloppenberg decided to write about the influences that shaped President Obama’s view of the world, he interviewed the president’s former professors and classmates, combed through his books, essays, and speeches, and even read every article published during the three years Mr. Obama was involved with the Harvard Law Review (“a superb cure for insomnia,” Mr. Kloppenberg said). What he did not do was speak to President Obama. “He would have had to deny every word,” Mr. Kloppenberg said with a smile. The reason, he explained, is his conclusion that President Obama is a true intellectual — a word that is frequently considered an epithet among populists with a robust suspicion of Ivy League elites…. – NYT (10-27-10)

FEATURES:

  • Racism seen in interracial town’s fall by historical archaelogist: A 19th-century railroad doomed a black-founded western Illinois town by diverting routes around it, an archaeologist who studied its history says. New Philadelphia, Ill., was “the first town in the United States planned and legally registered by an African- American,” writes University of Illinois Professor Chris Fennell in the journal Historical Archaeology…. – UPI (11-1-10)
  • Resourceful Amish adapt as farming declines, says Indiana historian: …Once known for their strictly agricultural lifestyle and rejection of modernity — including electricity, cars and telephones — the Amish increasingly are turning away from the farm, accepting technology and opting for nontraditional jobs, academic researchers and church members say…. The shift from farmer to entrepreneur began decades ago, according to Kraybill and Steven Nolt, a professor of history at Goshen College in Indiana…. – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (11-7-10)

PROFILES:

  • Carlos Eire, Yale historian, comes out with second memoir: Now 59, Eire is not dying, nor does he live in Miami. He is a professor of history and religious studies at Yale University. But he views boarding a KLM flight from Havana to Florida in 1962 as a death — the end of Carlos and his rebirth as Charles, a boy desperate to assimilate into American life…. – Spicezee (11-7-10)

QUOTES:

  • Voters impatient with Washington enabled by technology, says Miami University historian: …The impatience narrative is compelling because the world is in a constant state of change and the public expects speedy action. Yet lack of patience isn’t anything new, says Andrew Cayton, a distinguished professor of history at Miami University. What’s new is the ability to grouse about it, en masse and instantly.
    “Now, because of cable TV and phones and the Internet, it’s much easier for that to get momentum across a wide group of people,” Cayton said. What once might have been tribal or local dissatisfaction now becomes “a global phenomenon, almost overnight.” And that hampers public officials’ ability to deal with tough issues in a deliberative manner, he says…. – Cleveland Plains Dealer (11-7-10)
  • Tea Party Rooted in Religious Fervor for Constitution, say Norton, Butler, and Greenberg: …”There’s a strong strand of divine-guidance thinking, thinking about American exceptionalism,” said Mary Beth Norton, a professor of early American history at Cornell University. “People have certainly seen the texts of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as the equivalent of a secular religion, with the idea then that you can’t challenge these texts.”…
    If anything, the Constitution is especially vulnerable to literalism. “There is a major translation problem for literalism in relation to Christian doctrine,” said Jon Butler, a professor of the history of religion in America at Yale. “And there’s the matter of the age of the texts. But there is no translation issue with the Constitution, and it’s only a couple of centuries old. So that makes it so much more susceptible. There it is. You can find it on the Internet.”
    And from there, it is a short trip indeed to the engaged, enraged Tea Party of 2010, and a campaign that charged Democrats with a kind of Constitutional heresy. “The Constitution has always been the trump card, the ultimate political weapon,” noted David Greenberg, a professor of history and presidential biographer at Rutgers University. “If you don’t like what the other side is doing, you say it’s unconstitutional.” NYT (11-5-10)

INTERVIEWS:

  • Q+A: Interview with Professor Simon Schama: Paul Holmes interviews Professor Simon Schama. PAUL Welcome back to Professor Simon Schama, one of the world’s most widely read historians. An Englishman who lives in New York, he is Professor of History and the History of Art at Columbia University, he’s also a writer and television presenter. He’s responsible for the books and the TV series Obama’s America and The American Future. Professor Schama is a political commentator for the BBC and CNN, amongst others, and so he’s got tremendous insight into President Obama and how and why America voted as it did last week. Obama himself described the Democrats’ loss last week as ‘a shellacking’, so I asked Professor Schama when I spoke to him exactly how big a thumping it was…. – TVNZ (New Zealand) (11-7-10)
  • NYT interviews Garry Wills: As a presidential historian and emeritus professor at Northwestern, you’re well aware that the Democrats are facing the likelihood of an electoral setback this Tuesday. Yet President Obama continues to be the object of scathing criticism among Democrats, including yourself. Why won’t you give him credit for getting things done? He gets things done in a very crippled way. The health care plan and the finance plan — he made so many bargains along the way…. – NYT (10-29-10)

AWARDS &APPOINTMENTS:

  • Carney, Kara, and Rosomoff to Share 2010 Frederick Douglass Book Prize: Judith Carney, Siddharth Kara, and Richard Rosomoff to Share $25,000 Frederick Douglass Book Prize Judith A. Carney, Professor of Geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, Siddharth Kara, an anti-slavery researcher and advocate and correspondent for CNN.com, and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff, an independent writer, have been selected as the co-winners of the 2010 Frederick Douglass Book Prize, awarded for the best book written in English on slavery or abolition. Carney and Rosomoff won for their book Inside the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World (University of California Press), and Kara won for his book, Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery (Columbia University Press).
  • Cape Breton University to honour rights icon with named chair: Nova Scotia rights icon Viola Desmond is being honoured by Cape Breton University,+ which is creating a chair in her name — the Viola Desmond chair in social justice. Desmond, a black woman, was convicted in 1946 for sitting in the whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow. She was pardoned by the province earlier this year. History professor Graham Reynolds will be the first holder of the chair…. CBC News (11-5-10)
  • McGill University Professor Desmond Morton Wins 2010 Pierre Berton Award: Steady scholarship, dry wit and an appetite for public debate are the qualities that have made Professor Desmond Morton this year’s winner of the Pierre Berton Award, Canada’s History Society announced today. Desmond Morton’s incisive analysis and quiet chuckle have raised interest in and knowledge of Canadian history from coast-to-coast…. – Newswire Canada (11-3-10)
  • Pelosi Appoints Dr. Matthew Wasniewski as New House Historian: On October 20, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the appointment of Dr. Matthew Wasniewski as the new Historian of the House of Representatives. Dr. Wasniewski, who currently serves as the historian in the House Clerk’s Office of History and Preservation, received the unanimous recommendation of the House Historian Search Committee appointed by Speaker Pelosi with the input of House Republican Leader John Boehner who concurred on the appointment…. – Lee White at the National Coalition for History (10-22-10)

ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

  • Toronto’s 30th anniversary of Holocaust Education Week: The 30th anniversary of Holocaust Education Week will take place in Toronto and the surrounding region, from November 1 to November 9. This year more than 30,000 participants are expected to attend over 150 educational and cultural programmes. The central theme for 2010 is “We Who Survived.”… – Jewish Info News (10-24-10)
  • THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY MAKES ITS MOST IMPORTANT COLLECTIONS RELATING TO SLAVERY AVAILABLE ONLINE: Rich trove of material becomes easily accessible at www.nyhistory.org/slaverycollection The New-York Historical Society is proud to announce the launch of a new online portal to nearly 12,000 pages of source materials documenting the history of slavery in the United States, the Atlantic slave trade and the abolitionist movement. Made readily accessible to the general public for the first time at www.nyhistory.org/slaverycollections, these documents from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries represent fourteen of the most important collections in the library’s Manuscript Department….
  • Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs,” is the only comprehensive website on the famous Reagan-era government scandal, which stemmed from the U.S. government’s policies toward two seemingly unrelated countries, Nicaragua and Iran. Despite stated and repeated denials to Congress and to the public, Reagan Administration officials supported the militant contra rebels in Nicaragua and sold arms to a hostile Iranian government. These events have led to questions about the appropriateness of covert operations, congressional oversight, and even the presidential power to pardon…. – irancontra.org
  • Thousands of Studs Terkel interviews going online: The Library of Congress will digitize the Studs Terkel Oral History Archive, according to the agreement, while the museum will retain ownership of the roughly 5,500 interviews in the archive and the copyrights to the content. Project officials expect digitizing the collection to take more than two years…. – NYT, 5-13-10
  • Digital Southern Historical Collection: The 41,626 scans reproduce diaries, letters, business records, and photographs that provide a window into the lives of Americans in the South from the 18th through mid-20th centuries.

SPOTTED:

  • Ripping the USA: Revising History Dismally: It happened in July. A group of 25 selected professor historians met in Hawaii at a workshop sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). They were to present and hear scholarly papers on the history of these United States in World War II. It was to be a high-level intellectual rendering of that war receding now into history…. – American Thinker (11-6-10)
  • Almost 50 history teachers get lesson at Teddy Roosevelt home: “He wasn’t just the 26th president of the United States, but a real man with many exciting sides to his life,” said Eileen McGaghran, who teaches history at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua. “For history teachers, seeing all this, getting this in-depth content, the detail, the stories, will really help in the classroom to get kids’ attention. That’s what we want.” McGaghran was one of close to 50 history teachers from Westchester and Putnam who visited Sagamore Hill on Thursday as part of a special program to breathe life into history for normally classroom-bound teachers, so they can, in turn, excite students about days gone by…. – LoHud.com (11-1-10)
  • Tea Party’s impact studied on eve of election: Deputy director Tim Rives put together a program to discuss “The Tea Party and the Future of American Politics.” “The Tea Party is one of the most important political developments of modern times,” said Karl Wesissenbach, director of the Eisenhower Center, about the forum which is part of the Kansas Town Hall Forum series…. – Abilene Reflector-Chronicle (10-31-10)
  • Jan T. Gross building new history of the Holocaust: The overflow audience at Yad Vashem listens intently to Gross’s lecture, entitled “Opportunistic Killings and Plunder of Jews By Their Neighbors – A Norm or an Exception in German-Occupied Europe?” while distracted by the image…. – Jerusalem Post (10-31-10)

ON TV:

BEST SELLERS (NYT):

BOOKS COMING SOON:

  • Helen J. Burn: Betsy Bonaparte, (Hardcover), November 1, 2010
  • Noah Feldman: Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices, (Hardcover), November 2010
  • Gerald Blaine: The Kennedy Detail: JFK’s Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence, (Hardcover), November 2, 2010
  • Greg Farrell: Crash of the Titans: Greed, Hubris, the Fall of Merrill Lynch, and the Near-Collapse of Bank of America, (Hardcover), November 2, 2010
  • Charles Rappleye: Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution, (Hardcover), November 2, 2010
  • Karl Rove: Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight, (Paperback), November 2, 2010
  • Charles HRH The Prince of Wales: Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World, (Hardcover), November 2, 2010
  • Simon Winchester: Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, (Hardcover), November 2, 2010
  • Steven E. Woodworth: Manifest Destinies: America’s Westward Expansion and the Road to the Civil War, (Hardcover), November 2, 2010
  • Manning Marable: Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, (Hardcover), November 9, 2010
  • Adam Richman: America the Edible: A Hungry History From Sea to Dining Sea, (Hardcover), November 9, 2010
  • Rodney Stark: God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, (Paperback), November 9, 2010
  • Elizabeth White: The Socialist Alternative to Bolshevik Russia: The Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1917-39, (Hardcover), November 10, 2010
  • G. J. Barker-Benfield: Abigail and John Adams: The Americanization of Sensibility, (Hardcover), November 15, 2010
  • Laura Hillenbrand: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, (Hardcover), November 16, 2010
  • Mike Huckabee: A Simple Christmas: Twelve Stories that Celebrate the True Holiday Spirit, (Hardcover), November 16, 2010
  • Gary Ecelbarger: The Day Dixie Died: The Battle of Atlanta, (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Michael Goldfarb: Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance, (Paperback), November 23, 2010
  • Edmund Morris: Colonel Roosevelt, (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Linda Porter: Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII (First Edition), (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Alison Weir: The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, (Paperback), December 28, 2010
  • Donald Rumsfeld: Known and Unknown: A Memoir, (Hardcover), January 25, 2011

DEPARTED:

  • Susanna Barrows, scholar of modern French history, dies at 65: Susanna I. Barrows, a professor emerita of history at the UC Berkeley, and an authority on modern French history, died at her home in Berkeley on Wednesday, Oct. 27, after a suspected heart attack. She was 65…. – UC Berkeley News (11-2-10)
  • Korean historian and archaelogist who proved Korean Old Stone Age dies: Sohn Pow-key, an archeologist who proved humans were living on the Korean Peninsula during the Paleolithic Age by excavating related artifacts, died in Seoul on Sunday. He was 88…. From 1964 to 1974 when he was professor of history at Yonsei University and head of the university’s museum, Sohn excavated Paleolithic tools at Seokjang-ri in Gongju, South Chungcheong Province…. – Korea Herald (11-1-10)
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