#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this brilliant biography, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jon Meacham chronicles the life of George Herbert Walker Bush.
NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review • Time • NPR • St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Drawing on President Bush’s personal diaries, on the diaries of his wife, Barbara, and on extraordinary access to the forty-first president and his family, Meacham paints an intimate and surprising portrait of an intensely private man who led the nation through tumultuous times. From the Oval Office to Camp David, from his study in the private quarters of the White House to Air Force One, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the first Gulf War to the end of Communism, Destiny and Power charts the thoughts, decisions, and emotions of a modern president who may have been the last of his kind. This is the human story of a man who was, like the nation he led, at once noble and flawed.
His was one of the great American lives. Born into a loving, privileged, and competitive family, Bush joined the navy on his eighteenth birthday and at age twenty was shot down on a combat mission over the Pacific. He married young, started a family, and resisted pressure to go to Wall Street, striking out for the adventurous world of Texas oil. Over the course of three decades, Bush would rise from the chairmanship of his county Republican Party to serve as congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, head of the Republican National Committee, envoy to China, director of Central Intelligence, vice president under Ronald Reagan, and, finally, president of the United States. In retirement he became the first president since John Adams to see his son win the ultimate prize in American politics.
With access not only to the Bush diaries but, through extensive interviews, to the former president himself, Meacham presents Bush’s candid assessments of many of the critical figures of the age, ranging from Richard Nixon to Nancy Reagan; Mao to Mikhail Gorbachev; Dick Cheney to Donald Rumsfeld; Henry Kissinger to Bill Clinton. Here is high politics as it really is but as we rarely see it.
From the Pacific to the presidency, Destiny and Power charts the vicissitudes of the life of this quietly compelling American original. Meacham sheds new light on the rise of the right wing in the Republican Party, a shift that signaled the beginning of the end of the center in American politics. Destiny and Power is an affecting portrait of a man who, driven by destiny and by duty, forever sought, ultimately, to put the country first.
Praise for Destiny and Power
“Should be required reading—if not for every presidential candidate, then for every president-elect.”—The Washington Post
“Reflects the qualities of both subject and biographer: judicious, balanced, deliberative, with a deep appreciation of history and the personalities who shape it.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A fascinating biography of the forty-first president.”—The Dallas Morning News
America's 41st president shines as a nice guy with an edge of steel in this admiring biography. Pulitzer-winning historian Meacham (American Lion) styles Bush as the embodiment of Greatest Generation virtues: hard-working, dutiful, patriotic, well-mannered, friendly, fair-minded, and increasingly out of step with the ugly partisanship of latter-day politics. But beneath the soft affability he detects a fiercely competitive drive and go-it-alone nerve, especially when Bush decided to risk impeachment by launching the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq even without Congress's authorization. With access to Bush's genial-to-peevish diaries and extensive interviews with Bush, the author paints a warm, evocative portrait of a president who in office was tagged as a wimpy blur, one that supports later historical opinion in saluting his deft pragmatism in navigating the collapse of Soviet communism. But Meacham soft-pedals contradictions in Bush's character, like the very ungentlemanly 1988 presidential campaign against Michael Dukakis; and though Bush inaugurated America's resurgent military interventionism in the Middle East, a geopolitical watershed whose profound repercussions are still playing out, the book asks few serious questions about that troubled legacy. This is a vivid, well-written account that doesn't quite come to grips with its subject's pivotal place in history. Photos.
Superb Job Telling Bush 41's Story
While a fan of Jon Meachum as a talking head, particularly on historical subjects, some of his previous books didn't quite hit the mark for me. It's obvious his research is first rate, his command of surrounding history related to the subjects of his books is impeccable - in short he's the real deal. Still not every well researched and prepared speech, hits it mark, makes cogent points, and leaves a profound impression on its audience.
However in this book, Jon hit a home run. George H. W. Bush's story is well laid out, themes begin to emerge early, and insight on the core "Poppy" are identified and explained. While few facts were new to me, as #41's history has been pretty well covered, tying them to his entire life, seeing the influence of his parents, and how that prepared and shaped him is quite the compelling story. Another aspect I find particularly remarkable -in many ways #41's story is typical of his generation, coming of age in World War II, serving bravely, playing well his role in the post war boom years, building a business, raising a family, and constant devotion to that family, always striving, and appreciation for the ideals and training his forebears provided him. But in a few distinct ways, George H. W. Bush's story is not typical - he was born into an upper class family, he did not suffer through the Great Depression like so many of his generation did, and his father's proximity to the real power brokers - #41 made the most of these, wasn't afraid to take unpopular stances, more than paid his dues, waited his turn, and when given the chance to lead our country, he handled the massive responsibility deftly. For a politician, he uncharacteristically took little credit for how smoothly he guided our country and the world through the end of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
Some extremely poignant and warm moments revealed added to the richness of this biography - probably the best a letter #41 wrote his mother about his daughter Robin near the end of chapter 10.. Highly recommend everyone read this book. Congratulations Jon.
A great, unbiased account of 41's life. Shows how his true character was always a constant factor in his public/private life.
A great read. Probably did not appreciate his true character until I read this book.