“FDR is a model presidential biography,” writes ubiquitous book reviewer Jonathan Yardley of Jean Edward Smith’s new book. He also wrote a 2001 biography that completed the rehabilitation of Ulysses S. Grant’s reputationâ€”basing presidential decisions on principles: what a concept! Between those two books, Smith has had almost as many “magisterials” (one of a book reviewer’s most supremeâ€”and hackneyedâ€”plaudits) thrown his way as Robert Caro with his biographies of Robert Moses and LBJ.
According to Kirkus Review‘s summary on Amazon, “in this volatile study, America’s adventure [Iraq] … was not a crusade for freedom but a checkpoint on the personal agenda of George Bush, who disregarded constitutional restrictions on presidential power and cynically manipulated the public, the press, Congress, and even the military.” It continues:
Smith chronicles Bush’s personalization of the crisis and details the resulting twists and turns of public perception, policy, and action.
Bush’s penchant for heroism … led him to adopt a ‘crusading’ posture against Iraq. This personalizing of world affairs resulted in rapid, short-term success, but Smith spells out its possible dangers for democracy: Bush’s alleged disregarding of expert advice, particularly from the State Department and the military… the crumbling of congressional caution during the crisis, he adds, undermined the separation of powers, making the President a virtual dictator of foreign policy.
Particularly damning is Smith’s abundant evidence of the Administration’s policy of ‘minimum candor’ … even Generals Powell and Schwartzkopf apparently learned of Bush’s decision to switch from defensive to offensive operations through TV news reports.
That’s rightâ€”Bush at War, published in 1992, is about George H.W. and the Gulf War.
Too bad brother Jeb defused the famous “You wanna go mano-a-mano right here?” incident. If Junior had taken a swing at his father and connected, he might have resolved his Oedipal conflict right then and there. We’d then have been spared a president who, in part, based his foreign policy on the need to one-up his father by bagging Saddam Hussein, the one that got away from his dad.