On Top of the World


Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush

By: Robert Draper

Robert Draper attended the University of Texas and majored in the Plan II Honors program. Along with writing Dead Certain: The Presidency of George Bush, he also wrote many other books and contributed to the Rolling Stones Magazine.

A Journey to Greatness

By: Milan Le

You can’t fake it. You have to believe it. And I believe it. I believe we’ll succeed” was a statement made by George W. Bush Jr. in the book Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush.107 As stated in the title, Dead Certain, Bush believes that everything he does is correct without a doubt. Even when bloodshed followed his success in Iraq, he still thought he was correct. However, when facts get in the way of his thinking, he would brush them off. Giving six one on one interviews with the President himself as well as his wife, Laura Bush, and many other people, Robert Draper, the author of this piece, gives readers an inside look to the Bush White House from 2001 to 2007. Not only does Draper include the many accomplishments of the President but also insight of the struggles that Bush went through as well as criticizing the way he ran the White House.

Bush lacked many things including “the toothy ebullience of a Reagan or a Kennedy, the eager charm of a Clinton.” In the first chapter, Draper describes a scene where Bush is going to New Hampshire to talk to the people there about his campaign. He is not the first and is following many other candidates who have already before, but his competitive spirit was what drove him to further continue his campaign. Draper goes on to talk about his visits to Texas and South Carolina in the second and third chapters. During Bush’s whole campaign, there is a struggle to find his own self-confidence and presence. He talks about being the son of a president as well as a Compassionate Conservative, similar to his father, but strives to be a completely different man than his father. Although Bush confided with his father to see what his opinion was on subjects, Bush had a mind of his own. He planned to not be influenced by his father but rather to use his father’s input as information. To mend the bond between the citizens of America and the government from Clinton’s Presidency, Bush proposed an Era of Responsibility. He promised that he would build up trust between the people and its government so that they could be proud to be living in the US and the government they had. Chapter Four starts with Bush finally in control of the White House and describes how new and creepy it was. One statement said during this chapter was that “Bush was not one to test the boundaries of his own life.”1729 It is interesting because this makes him sound like a person who doesn’t particularly like to take risks which is one characteristic in most presidents. However, in chapter five it describes Bush to be “a puppet” to his administration despite all the evidence against that was shown by those who worked for him.2117 He saw this and did not plan to just sit around and let it happen. Bush made it very clear in this chapter that if any decisions came his way it would be him who answered the call.

In chapter six, talks about the plans for education, taxes, stem cell funding among many other things such as funding for religious social services. Bush had a set plan in place. However something was missing. He said back in South Carolina that he would be a “different kind of Republican”, but was he living up to those expectations?2445 He did believe in things like supporting children’s education and went in to start the “No Child Left Behind Project.” This act was enabled so that states were required to test children in reading and math in grades three to eight and once in high school. It also authorized many federal education programs to be administrated through the state schools. However what Bush lacked was that he had no purpose. In chapter seven, Bush is now faced with a new and different problem. He would be meeting with the president of Pakistan on the order of joining them to fight terrorism. What is interesting is that Draper doesn’t talk about September eleventh directly. He mentions many dates before and the day after September eleventh. It talks about how Bush dealt with the country and its neighbors in reaction to the tragedy. A major difference between son and father is uncovered during this chapter. When Bush Jr. saw opportunity, even if he was coming out of an attack, he jumped at it. His father was the opposite of Bush and enjoyed to play it safe. After September eleventh, the country goes into a period of blame and suspicion. The country is shook and afraid of who attacked them and began to not trust each other. This “fever” as described in chapter eight lasted for a long time, despite how long Bush waited for it to die down. September eleventh’s terrorist attacks would leave him with many speculations and hallucinations that haunted his sleepless nights. This would shake his unbreakable optimism that he has had since the beginning of his campaign. “We can’t stop short” says Bush, “If we stop now - leaving terror camps intact and terror states unchecked-our sense of security would be false and temporary.” 3289 George Bush is now introduced as a war president that would be stuck with a long and difficult war in chapter nine. However, his perseverance and determination prepared him for the difficult trek ahead. In chapter ten,Thanksgiving has arrived in the White House which meant most of the faculty would be away for on vacation. Bush faced much difficulty in getting people together to help him plan for the wars ahead. He ended up not spending his Thanksgiving with his family but on a plane with his advance team and Bartlett and Hagin to Baghdad. Chapter eleven starts with Bush being furiously stuck on the decision that Iraq should not be responsible for the costs of its own reconstruction and he was not going to negotiate anything. He proposed that the federal funding coming from the Abstinence Program to be doubled so that it could help pay for it, but was turned down.

The campaign to reelect Bush began very soon. His competitors, Dowd and Rove came in strong. It goes on to talking about Rove and Dowd’s accomplishments and history and how they contributed to Bush’s part of the campaign. This time partisanship and polarization came into play with his plans and he no longer thought of himself as a Compassionate Conservative. In chapter thirteen, it is brought up again that he is not like his father. Unlike his father he was not self-conscious during the campaign. He could not be humiliated though. “Humility he could do; humiliation, not.”4521 Many of his audiences were unscripted for the sake of authenticity.In chapter fourteen Bush would be really busy going to seven events, six states, in nineteen hours during the campaign. He received zero sleep during this time.He talked about steel mills, fair trade and lower taxes. Chapter fifteen talks about how the years are catching up to him at the age of fifty-eight. He could not do the same exercises and stretches that he could usually do. He was riding a bike up a hill, a very steep hill. He was struggling, breathing hard but he prevails. Bush is a little nervous about the inauguration in chapter sixteen. There were “no more races” and he had everyone on his side.5289 Even thought this was a good thing, there was a new pressure that he bore. The force that competed against him was his own moral limits and his confidence had become something bigger that devoured him. Now there were no excuses to mess up. In chapter seventeen, there is another recurring scene. He is on his bike again in the summer. He enjoyed being ahead of his competitors and suddenly has a burst of confidence because he sees himself as ahead of the curve.

In chapter eighteen it is mentioned that Bush’s goal was “democratization.”6191 He wasn’t to be able to change the United States’s image but it was not enough to end unto itself. In chapter nineteen, optimism was still high and normal for President Bush. He did not fear any failure and dismantlement did not occur often. Once he became the Commander of Chief of an unpopular war, optimism grew less reflective. The issue of immigration-reform legislation became a new heated topic in chapter twenty. Bush had not expected to spend his presidency at war or dealing with natural disasters but he was able to solve for those problems. He suggested to make a two-tier pathway to citizenship for immigrants and illegal workers and put a new meaning to conservatism. In chapter twenty-one he still saw that the battle of Iraq was not waged politically. His levels of communication with his faculty and team grew weaker and weaker. He was not a second-guesser for his part. He had read many historical texts of historical figures such as Lincoln, Churchill, and Truman, war time leaders. This made Bush confident because he was so knowledgeable in the subject. In chapter twenty-two, the last chapter, it is expressed that he was “less certain about those Republicans who were backpedaling on Iraq.”7135 It is addressed again that similar to the title Bush did not doubt his decisions. Not in the public eye or anywhere. He also still had confidence even though he knew about the scandals that were going on here and there during his presidency.

The author was trying to convey a journey that relied on the perseverance and determination of George W. Bush Jr. The book shows multiple examples of him going up hills with his bike and his constant strain to keep his optimism up. The bike and the hill would represent his goal and how far he is and how his is getting there. When the bike is first mentioned, it was easier to maneuver the bike because he was so young, but then he grew older and stopped caring for his health because of all the important events he had to go to. This caused his bike rides to be slower and a lot more harder than they used to be. His constant fight to remain optimistic is also a good example of him fighting for his goals and throughout his journey Draper was able to capture the struggles as well as the good times in his life.

The author came from the University of Texas in Austin and worked as a journalist while writing many books. He wrote Dead Certain: The presidency of George W. Bush in 2008. I feel like he is supportive of Bush because of all the struggles he put in his stories. Struggles have a way of showing the audience how noble and honorable the person is when they see how much they worked hard for it.

Professional Book Analysis:
From the article posted by the New York Times, it talks about how Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush was one of many tales of great men. However, they argue that Draper’s interpretation of Bush as a war president. It also criticizes how Draper did not include “the most profound example of Bush’s extreme assertion of executive power: torture” (Lewis). It is very clear that Draper is more supportive of Bush’s achievements and his determination to lead a nation.

From the article posted by the New York Times, it talks about how Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush was one of many tales of great men. However, they argue that Draper’s interpretation of Bush as a war president. It also criticizes how Draper did not include “the most profound example of Bush’s extreme assertion of executive power: torture” (Lewis). It is very clear that Draper is more supportive of Bush’s achievements and his determination to lead a nation.

In a review from The Telegraph, they talk about how Draper is definitely more “richer and more sophisticated than many accounts” (Finch). It is very informative and unbiased in comparison to the other books made about Bush. Draper has also had a lot of experience with President Bush and has interviewed him many times, so his information is correct.

This book is biased because it does not mention many bad things that occurred during Bush’s presidency. For example, Draper did not include the torture that went into Bush’s planning when dealing with terrorists. In conclusion, I think that Draper really put a lot of thought into writing the book. He is very knowledgeable on the subject and will give you for the most part unbiased comments and writings.

Common question:
The book Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush reflects the changes that came to America during the Cold War when it talks about September eleventh and how everyone was shaken up and turning on each other. The country was in a vivid panic to see who is here and who they let into the country so tragedies like September eleventh don’t happen again.

It talks about the situation with letting people into the country during the book. It was after September eleventh so many people were scared of letting more people whom the didn’t know who they were in. The people became paranoid and did not want to let anyone in which is one of the harder things Bush had to deal with.

Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush was a book of many achievements and few mistakes here and there.

Although it is a biased book, the content inside is very accurate for it being a very highly controversial topic. It talks about the determination of a president to go through many hard wars and is still apart of himself. It not only talks about his political career as the President but also the family and staff relationships he had within the white house and how got drawn into the whole journey. Draper was able to write such a book because he was unbiased for the most part. It is one of the few books of its kind to not be very biased against George W. Bush. It is actually very supportive of Bush and his other books.

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/non_fictionreviews/3668508/Dead-Certain-the-Presidency-of-George-W-Bush-by-Robert-Draper.html
[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/books/review/Lewis3-t.html