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The Right Man is the first inside account of a historic year in the Bush White House, by the presidential speechwriter credited with the phrase axis of evil. David Frum helped make international headlines when President George W. Bush’s 2002 State of the Union address linked international terrorists to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. But that was only one moment during a crucial time in American history, when a president, an administration, and a country were transformed.
Frum worked with President Bush in the Oval Office, traveled with him aboard Air Force One, and studied him closely at meetings and events. He describes how Bush thinks—what this conservative president believes about religion, race, the environment, Jews, Muslims, and America’s future. Frum takes us behind the scenes of one of the most secretive administrations in recent history, with revealing portraits of Karl Rove, Karen Hughes, Condoleezza Rice, and many others. Most significant, he tells the story of the transformation of George W. Bush: how a president whose administration began in uncertainty became one of the most decisive, successful, and popular leaders of our time.
Before becoming a White House speechwriter, David Frum was a highly regarded author of books and political commentary and an influential voice on the pages of The Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard. His commentary has been described by William F. Buckley as “the most refreshing ideological experience in a generation.” Now, in The Right Man, we see Frum as a front-row observer and participant. Not since Peggy Noonan’s account of her time in the Reagan White House has an insider portrayed a sitting president with such precision, verve, honest admiration, and insight.
The Right Man will command international attention for its thoughtful account of George W. Bush in the midst of his greatest challenge. It will be an essential reference for anyone seeking to understand who our president really is and how he is likely to lead us in the future.
Frum, author of Dead Right and the phrase"axis of evil," looks back on a year as a speechwriter in the Bush White House in this affable and witty but slightly cagey account. Frum recounts the travails of crafting the President's public pronouncements and the ordeal of the terrorist attacks, and draws funny thumbnail sketches of White House personalities like communications director Karen Hughes, who"disliked verbs" because they"conveyed action, not feeling." Mostly, though, he keeps the focus on Bush, vigorously disputing the notion that the President is a dim-witted figurehead for powerful advisors like Dick Cheney and Karl Rove and insisting that Bush is a commanding leader who came into his own after 9/11. But he also describes the president as"ill informed" and"sometimes glib, even dogmatic," with"a poor memory for facts and figures"; his strengths are"tenacity,""courage," a"large and clear" vision and a"Holden Caulfield streak" of sincerity. Frum was not part of the inner circle, so his evidence for Bush's leadership sometimes consists of the bold statements Bush made in speeches that were crafted by others to explain policies hashed out by his subordinates. His sketchy defense of Bush's policy-making is similarly unconvincing; concerns about the energy industry's influence on the plan to drill in Alaska are dismissed as"goofy," and his recap of the Bush tax cut doesn't answer the main criticism that it is skewed toward the rich. Frum is an engaging writer, but this is very much a speechwriter's book--packed with graceful sound bites, but ultimately more spin than substance.