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"Youthful political reporters are always told there are three ways to judge a politician," write Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose in Shrub. "The first is to look at the record. The second is to look at the record. And third, look at the record." The record under scrutiny in this brief, informative book belongs to one George W. Bush--dubbed "Shrub" by Ivins--governor of Texas and 2000 presidential hopeful. These two veteran journalists know how politics are played in Texas and they've done their homework, writing a comprehensive examination of Bush's professional and political life that's a lively read, to boot. And if the title alone doesn't convey their particular slant, perhaps the following caveat from the introduction will: "If, at the end of this short book, you find W. Bush's political résumé a little light, don't blame us. There's really not much there. We have been looking for six years."
Beginning with his admission to the Texas National Guard during the Vietnam War (where he bypassed a waiting list of about 100,000), the authors go on to deconstruct his losing congressional bid, his failed career as an oil executive, and his role as managing partner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, revealing how he was helped every step of the way by wealthy and influential friends of the family. Ever popular, Dubya has always been good at rounding up powerful players to bankroll a variety of ventures, including political campaigns. For this reason, explain the authors, along with his lineage and social status, Bush's primary allegiance is to the business community. While his speeches may deal with the "entertainment issues" of "God, guns, and gays," Bush is a "wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America," they write. They further point out that Texas ranks near the bottom of the nation in terms of a number of social categories, such as poverty, health insurance for children, and pollution, spearing the governor for his less-than-compassionate conservatism.
Shrub is not a complete Bush whacking, though. The authors laud the governor's record on education, in which he has managed to raise standards, push local control of schools, and launch a successful reading campaign. They also cite his wooing of the Hispanic vote and his ability to bridge the gap between the Christian right and the economic conservatives within the Republican party as evidence of true political acumen, though they maintain he lacks a penchant for actual governing: "From the record, it appears that he doesn't know much, doesn't do much and doesn't care much about governing." Bush has admitted that he dislikes reading, particularly about policy issues, and that he hates meetings and briefings, causing the authors to wonder, "The puzzle of Bush is why someone with so little interest in or attention for policy, for making government work, would want the job of president, or even governor."
Love him or leave him, Shrub leaves much to consider about the man who would be president. And it can be read in about a day. --Shawn Carkonen [via]