Saturday, March 1, 2008

Jacob Weisberg's Book Reviewed on the NYT

The Bush Tragedy reviewed here.

Is the story of George W. Bush in fact a tragedy? Many Americans, of course, believe that his presidency has been a tragedy for the nation and for the world. But Weisberg provides few reasons to think it has been a tragedy for Bush himself. He portrays Bush as a willfully careless figure, only glancingly interested in his legacy or even his popularity. “To challenge a thoughtful, moderate and pragmatic father,” Weisberg argues, “he trained himself to be hasty, extreme and unbending. He learned to overcome all forms of doubt through the exercise of will.” Tragedy, in the Shakespearean form that Weisberg seems to cite (although there is nothing tragic about Henry V either), requires self-awareness and at least some level of greatness squandered. The Bush whom Weisberg skillfully and largely convincingly portrays is a man who has rarely reflected, who has almost never looked back, and who has constructed a self-image of strength, courage and boldness that has little basis in the reality of his life. He is driven less by bold vision than by a desire to get elected (and settle scores), less by real strength than by unfocused ambition, and less by courage than by an almost passive acquiescence in disastrous plans that the people he empowered pursued in his name.