cover image George W. Bush

George W. Bush

James Mann. Holt/Times Books, $25 (208p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9397-1

The latest volume in the American Presidents series meets its goal of providing a concise yet thorough biography of the 43rd president. Mann’s claim that Bush’s tenure “was, by any standard, one of the most consequential presidencies in American history” is made from a balanced assessment of the facts. Mann (Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet) begins by tracing Bush’s transformation from easygoing frat boy into a skilled politician. The bulk of the book, naturally, deals with his eight years in office, a period focused on the “war on terror.” Mann notes that historians in 50 years might view the conflicts as necessary to protect the homeland, or see Bush’s response as the “starting point in the establishment of a surveillance state in which American rights to privacy were irretrievably damaged.” Nonpartisan readers will find little to take issue with in Mann’s bottom-line judgment that the now deeply unpopular chief executive was “not responsible for all of America’s difficulties,” but undeniably did, through his ambitious but careless initiatives, exacerbate the nation’s problems. (Feb.)