How did a""mischievous imp"" whose early life was characterized by academic mediocrity, professional failure and after-hours carousing ultimately become a confident politician and an era-defining President? In this book, a muddled combination of psychoanalysis and political punditry, Renshon (High Hopes: The Clinton Presidency and the Politics of Ambition) seeks to answer that question, and to prove that Bush's presidency is driven by a desire to dramatically change the country in ways that directly mirror his own personal transformations. The book is at its best in its early sections, in which Renshon traces Bush's difficulties in becoming a mature and successful person within the context of his powerful family. According to Renshon, decades spent as a""black sheep"" allowed Bush to develop the ability to""stand apart from others"" and the capacity to embrace conflict rather than avoid it. In this segment, the book offers a balanced and nuanced portrait of a late bloomer, a very capable man who nonetheless has been unable to transcend some of the""quirky elements of his psychology."" However, the sections of the book that deal with Bush's political agenda are much more partisan. Renshon spends a great deal of the volume trying to refute criticisms of the President and, at one point, groups all the many policies opposed to Bush's domestic agenda under the single label""interest-group liberalism."" There's even a section of""National Security Questions for Critics."" Renshon himself appears to find no fault with Bush's leadership, and he looks forward to a hypothetical future in which Bush will be seen""historically, and appropriately, as a president of the first rank."" Readers who agree with him will no doubt give this book five stars, but those who don't may wish that he'd stuck to questions of the couch.
Reviewed on: 09/06/2004 Release date: 09/01/2004 Genre: Nonfiction