Leading Reagan biographer Cannon (Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power, 2003, etc.) teams with son Carl (The Pursuit of Happiness in Times of War, 2003, etc.) to measure George W. Bush against the Gipper’s formidable shadow.
During the course of his successful political career, Ronald Reagan renovated the Republican Party, a transformation neatly replicated in miniature within the Bush family. Any Republican seriously aspiring to the Oval Office since 1988 has welcomed and sought comparisons to Reagan, no one more aggressively than the current occupant. As Bush’s beleaguered presidency winds down, the Cannons deem him a worthy heir to Reagan on matters of tax and economic policies, judicial appointments and immigration issues. Otherwise, Bush shrivels in comparison to the Great Communicator. Where Reagan was flexible but aggressive, ruthless when necessary, attuned to public opinion and optimistic, Bush is stubborn, excessively loyal, passive and oddly indifferent to public opinion. Mindful of Reagan’s failures in office, the authors, nevertheless, find none as egregious as the Iraq War, a conflict they conclude Reagan would have avoided, and one which will likely doom Bush’s legacy. The Cannons detail how it all went wrong for Bush and how he strayed from the Reagan blueprint. Their narrative is distinguishable in three important ways from the innumerable Bush-bashing tomes that populate the bookshelves. First, the authors forthrightly confess that today’s world moves rapidly and that events might still overtake the analysis they offer. Second, they avoid the hysterical, foaming-at-the-mouth tone that assessments of Bush often inspire. Third, they acknowledge the rich irony of using Reagan to hammer Bush, a favorite pastime of folks who had little use for the Californian while he was governing.
Impossible for admirers of the current president to dismiss, the Cannons’ detailed reporting, fluid style and mature judgment will particularly delight Bush’s many critics.