Ambling Into History: The Unlikely Odyssey of George W. Bush

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9780066213712: Ambling Into History: The Unlikely Odyssey of George W. Bush

In many ways George W. Bush did not seem built for the presidency or the paces necessary to win it. He was a laid-back good-time guy with little appetite and limited talent for formal oratory, someone who often projected affability more easily than authority. He was a homebody who seemed to prefer surroundings and situations that were utterly familiar to those that were risky and unpredictable. His interests could be narrow and his efforts to expand them only fitful.

But he got there, and after September 11, 2001, confronted a challenge more daunting than many of his predecessors had faced. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Bush was left with the responsibility to lead Americans through a time of unusual anxiety and uncertainty, to inspire and reassure them. Could he do it?

In Ambling Into History, Frank Bruni, who covered Bush's presidential campaign and first eight months in the White House for the New York Times, mines the countless hours during which he observed and interacted with Bush to explore that question, and to present sides of Bush that readers have never encountered. He looks to small moments for big truths, going behind the scenes and offering fresh insights into Bush's oft-chronicled weaknesses, sometimes overlooked strengths, and his journey-alternately earnest and reluctant-from an innate levity to a newfound gravity.

Bruni also takes readers on his own trip through the strange maze of presidential politics, wryly chronicling life in the insular "bubble" of political reporting and its frequently dispiriting effect on the coverage that politicians get. It is a candid, eloquent, and illuminating adventure that shows why Newsweek called Bruni "probably the most influential" reporter on the Bush beat.

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Review:

In Ambling into History, New York Times reporter Frank Bruni has drawn an informal, evenhanded, largely anecdotal, and revealing portrait of George W. Bush, whose presidential campaign he covered. Bruni initially describes Bush as "part scamp and part bumbler," but his respect grows, and he finds that, with the September 11, 2001, attacks, Bush "inherited his true purpose," thereby spurring his emergence as a leader. Bruni is not especially concerned with Bush's political philosophy, preferring instead to relate many "small moments" to show what Bush "looked and acted like on the edges of what was usually considered news." Bruni is at his best when describing--often humorously--the exhausting life of the media corps during a campaign: the 24-hour days, the harrowing deadlines, and the brutish tedium of listening to and reporting on the same speech over and over again, a process he likens to "aerobic stenography." An equal-opportunity cynic, Bruni decries the "superficiality" not only of American politics but the media's coverage of it. This is an amiable and seemingly trustworthy peek behind the presidential dais and into a reporter's notebook. --H. O'Billovich

About the Author:

Frank Bruni, a reporter in the Washington bureau of the New York Times, now writes full-time for the Times Sunday magazine. For his previous work on other subjects, he was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing and a winner of the Polk Award for Metropolitan Reporting. He has appeared on ABC-TV's Nightline and other programs to talk about the Bush campaign and presidency.

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