The controversial president whose time in office was defined by the September 11 attacks and the war on terror
George W. Bush stirred powerful feelings on both sides of the aisle. Republicans viewed him as a resolute leader who guided America through the September 11 attacks and retaliated in Afghanistan and Iraq, while Democrats saw him as an overmatched president who led America into two inconclusive wars that sapped the nation's resources and diminished its stature. When Bush left office amid a growing financial crisis, both parties were eager to move on.
In this assessment of the nation's forty-third president, James Mann sheds light on why George W. Bush made the decisions that shaped his presidency, what went wrong, and how the internal debates and fissures within his administration played out in such a charged atmosphere. He shows how and why Bush became such a polarizing figure in both domestic and foreign affairs, and he examines the origins and enduring impact of Bush's most consequential actions—including Iraq, the tax cuts, and the war on terror. In this way, Mann points the way to a more complete understanding of George W. Bush and his times.
The latest volume in the American Presidents series meets its goal of providing a concise yet thorough biography of the 43rd president. Mann's claim that Bush's tenure "was, by any standard, one of the most consequential presidencies in American history" is made from a balanced assessment of the facts. Mann (Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet) begins by tracing Bush's transformation from easygoing frat boy into a skilled politician. The bulk of the book, naturally, deals with his eight years in office, a period focused on the "war on terror." Mann notes that historians in 50 years might view the conflicts as necessary to protect the homeland, or see Bush's response as the "starting point in the establishment of a surveillance state in which American rights to privacy were irretrievably damaged." Nonpartisan readers will find little to take issue with in Mann's bottom-line judgment that the now deeply unpopular chief executive was "not responsible for all of America's difficulties," but undeniably did, through his ambitious but careless initiatives, exacerbate the nation's problems.