Whoosh! Random House released my book, THE RIGHT MAN: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush only last Tuesday, and for the past six days I’ve been rushing from place to place telling people about it. I was in Chicago last week. This week I’m coming to Dallas and Houston. Next week I go to the west coast; the week after that I’m in Toronto. The response has been overwhelming everywhere. It’s stunning for a Beltway pundit to get out of Washington, away from arguments over tax packages and judicial nominations, and hear directly how Americans feel about their president. In the weeks after 9/11, Bush made an emotional connection with the American people that I think can only be compared to that forged by John F. Kennedy 40 years ago. They may not all agree with his policies. But they trust him–not just to do the right thing, but to feel the right way. In a world that has suddenly turned dangerous and unpredictable, President Bush looks to them to be steady and reliable. That counts for a lot. And it explains why they want to know him better.
Many of the early notices of THE RIGHT MAN have wondered whether the book will irk the White House. It’s certainly true that this White House is a very tight-lipped shop. It’s probably the first White House in history that believes in hushing up not just its failures–but its successes. I made a point of letting the White House know early that I was working on this book. I delivered copies to them before the release date so they would not be taken by surprise by anything in it. And of course I honored the president’s confidences.
Even so, it’s very possible that the White House will simply disapprove of the book on principle. But I have to wonder in my turn: Is a president really well served by being wrapped in mystery?
I’m posting a selection of the reviews of the book, negative as well as positive, at www.davidfrum.com. My favorite so far is an outburst of sputtering fury from Michiko Kakutani: who managed in just 750 words to describe the book as “hectoring,” “bellicose,” “kneejerk,” and guilty of “revel[ing] in … American power.” Guilty on the last point anyway. And the next time somebody asks me about the White House’s displeasure with me, I’ll be able to tell them that it is nothing compared to the dose of chili powder I seem to have shaken into the soup of those who hate this president.