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REVIEW - Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush by Molly Ivins, Lou Dubose.
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Editorial Reviews

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"Youthful political reporters are always told there are three ways to judge a politician," write Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose in Shrub. "The first is to look at the record. The second is to look at the record. And third, look at the record." The record under scrutiny in this brief, informative book belongs to one George W. Bush--dubbed "Shrub" by Ivins--governor of Texas and 2000 presidential hopeful. These two veteran journalists know how politics are played in Texas and they've done their homework, writing a comprehensive examination of Bush's professional and political life that's a lively read, to boot. And if the title alone doesn't convey their particular slant, perhaps the following caveat from the introduction will: "If, at the end of this short book, you find W. Bush's political résumé a little light, don't blame us. There's really not much there. We have been looking for six years."

Beginning with his admission to the Texas National Guard during the Vietnam War (where he bypassed a waiting list of about 100,000), the authors go on to deconstruct his losing congressional bid, his failed career as an oil executive, and his role as managing partner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, revealing how he was helped every step of the way by wealthy and influential friends of the family. Ever popular, Dubya has always been good at rounding up powerful players to bankroll a variety of ventures, including political campaigns. For this reason, explain the authors, along with his lineage and social status, Bush's primary allegiance is to the business community. While his speeches may deal with the "entertainment issues" of "God, guns, and gays," Bush is a "wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America," they write. They further point out that Texas ranks near the bottom of the nation in terms of a number of social categories, such as poverty, health insurance for children, and pollution, spearing the governor for his less-than-compassionate conservatism.

Shrub is not a complete Bush whacking, though. The authors laud the governor's record on education, in which he has managed to raise standards, push local control of schools, and launch a successful reading campaign. They also cite his wooing of the Hispanic vote and his ability to bridge the gap between the Christian right and the economic conservatives within the Republican party as evidence of true political acumen, though they maintain he lacks a penchant for actual governing: "From the record, it appears that he doesn't know much, doesn't do much and doesn't care much about governing." Bush has admitted that he dislikes reading, particularly about policy issues, and that he hates meetings and briefings, causing the authors to wonder, "The puzzle of Bush is why someone with so little interest in or attention for policy, for making government work, would want the job of president, or even governor."

Love him or leave him, Shrub leaves much to consider about the man who would be president. And it can be read in about a day. --Shawn Carkonen

From AudioFile
This is not a flattering portrait of the man who could be our next president. Ivins and Dubose, Texas political writers, cover Bush's youth, duty with the Air National Guard, oil ventures, ownership of the Texas Rangers and record as governor. The spin is not familiar to his promoters, and the book offers more detail than those of us in the other 49 states may want. Ivins reads, almost confides, knowing just which words to emphasize or invest with the irony that is her stock-in-trade. While her twang is genuine and her phrasing colorful, her impersonations of various state pols are either dead-on funny or mere Texas stereotypes, depending on your point of view. In fact, point of view and the willingness to suspend it will determine whether you find this tape entertaining, one-sided, just plain scary-or all three. J.B.G. (c) AudioFile 2000, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

Book Description

When it comes to reporting on politics, nobody does it smarter or funnier than bestselling author Molly Ivins. In Shrub, Ivins focuses her Texas-size smarts on the biggest politician in her home state: George Walker Bush, or "Shrub," as Ivins has nicknamed Bush the Younger.

A candidate of vague speeches and an ambiguous platform, Bush leads the pack of GOP 2000 presidential hopefuls; "Dubya" could very well be our next president. What voters need now is an original, smart, and accessible analysis of Bush--one that leaves the "youthful indiscretions" to the tabloids and gets to the heart of his policies and motivations. Ivins is the perfect woman for the job.

With her trademark wit and down-home wisdom, Molly Ivins shares three pieces of advice on judging a politician: "The first is to look at the record. The second is to look at the record. And third, look at the record." In this book, Ivins takes a good, hard look at the record of the man who could be the leader of the free world. Beginning with his post-college military career, Ivins tracks Dubya's winding, sometimes unlikely path from a failed congressional bid to a two-term governorship. Bush has made plenty of friends and supporters along the way, including Texas oil barons, evangelist Billy Graham, and co-investors in the Texas Rangers baseball team. "You would have to work at it to dislike the man," she writes. But for all of Bush's likeability, Ivins points to a disconcerting lack of political passion from this ascending presidential candidate. In her words, "If you think his daddy had trouble with 'the vision thing,' wait till you meet this one."

Witty, trenchant, and on target, Ivins gives a singularly perceptive and entertaining analysis of George W. Bush. To head to the voting booth without it would be downright un-American.

From Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush

"The past is prologue in politics. If a politician is left, right, weak, strong, given to the waffle or the flip-flop, or, as sometimes happens, an able soul who performs well under pressure, all that will be in the record."

¸ Bush's welfare record: "Texas pols like to 'git tuff' on crime, welfare, commies, and other bad stuff. Bush proposed to git tuff on welfare recipients by ending the allowance for each additional child--which in Texas is $38 a month."

¸ Bush and the Christian right: "Bush has learned to dance with the Christian right. It has been interesting and amusing to watch the process. Interesting because it's sometimes hard to tell who's leading and who's following; amusing because when a scion of Old Yankee money gets together with a televangelist with too much Elvis, the result is swell entertainment."

¸ Bush's environmental record: Since Governor Bush's election, Texas air quality has been rated the worst in the nation, leading all fifty states in overall toxic releases, recognized carcinogens in the air, cancer risk, and ten other categories of pollutants.

¸ Bush's military career: "Bush was promoted as the Texas Air National Guard's anti-drug poster boy, one of life's little ironies given the difficulty he has had answering cocaine questions all these years later. 'George Walker Bush is one member of the younger generation who doesn't get his kicks from pot or hashish or speed,' reads a Guard press release of 1970. 'Oh, he gets high, all right, but not from narcotics.'"

Book Info
Focuses on the biggest politician in the state of Texas, George W. Bush. An original, smart, and accessible analysis of Governor Bush.

About the Author

Molly Ivins' column is syndicated to more than two hundred newspapers from Anchorage to Miami, including her home paper, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. A three-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, she is the former

co-editor of The Texas Observer and the former Rocky Mountain bureau chief for The New York Times. She has a B.A. from Smith College and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. Her first book, Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?, spent more than twelve months on the New York Times bestseller list.

Lou Dubose has been active in Texas journalism for seventeen years, as both a newspaper reporter and a freelancer, and has covered the Texas Legislature for the past thirteen years. He has a master's degree in Latin American studies. Since 1987, he has been the editor of The Texas Observer.

Reader Reviews

Plenty of facts and yes (gasp!) some opinion, too, March 2, 2000 Reviewer: A reader from Arlington, VA
I don't think Molly Ivins has ever made a secret of her progressive politics, and I can't imagine being surprised that an editor for the Texas Observer has similar sympathies. That said, this book isn't a diatribe, it's simply an assemblage of information that's a matter of public record. That record may make Bush look bad, depending on your views about the Christian Right, profiting from your connections (whether to make money or to avoid getting sent to Vietnam), and selling your political power to the highest bidder. If that sort of thing bothers you, you should be bothered by Dubya, not by Ivins and Dubose. And if you think that the business of America is business, reading about where Geroge W. got his personal fortune, how his campaigns got funding, and what's happened to the environment in Texas under his administration, you'll probably want to stand up and cheer.

The only thing that baffles me is why she's still willing to give him any credit for education. Why give a tax cut rather than funding kindergarten?

Actually, there's probably a certain ironic justice in the fact that Clinton is coasting along on an economic boom that started under Bush the elder while Bush the younger is benefiting from steps taken by Ann Richards.

Should be required reading for all voters, September 4, 2000. Reviewer: A reader from California
Political columnist Molly Ivins is well-known as a "liberal gadfly" in Texas, and so it's hardly surprising that her political biography of George W. Bush paints an unrelentingly unflattering picture of Dubya. However, in critiquing the accomplishments (or lack of same) of George the Younger, Ivins writes with grace and wit, and without undue rancor toward her political opponent. She lets the facts speak for themselves. The result is a highly readable, entertaining, and yet clearly disturbing book. How is it possible that someone so eminently unqualified can be so close to becoming the next President of the United States?

The story Ivins tells is one that is a damning indictment of the current U.S. political system. George W. Bush was hand-picked by monied corporate interests some time ago to be groomed as a potential "capitalist tool," a figurehead politician who will do their bidding unquestionably while possessing the personality traits essential to appealing to a broad spectrum of voters. It's the stuff out of which bad Hollywood movies are made, and yet it's real. Consequently, although there is much wry humor in Ivins' narrative regarding how this ne'er-do-well, pampered inheritor of the Bush political legacy, the story she weaves is also frightening.

What I found particularly disturbing was Bush's indifference toward the natural environment. His lack of commitment to protecting the health of Texans from pollution is incredible. Given the high level of support that Americans overall have expressed for strong environmental laws, this issue alone ought to be sufficient to disqualify Dubya from the presidency.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wishes to get beyond the network tv blather and the high-powered campaign ads (from both sides, actually) in order to take a real look at what George W. Bush actually has accomplished in his political life. Even for those who might share his conservative philosophy, his lack of real experience and accomplishments ought to give them pause.

Finally: it's interesting that the principal criticism that offended Bush devotees have mustered toward this book (and sometimes I question whether they actually read it before expressing their hostility) is that after all, everyone KNOWS that Ivins is a liberal whacko, etc., so what she writes has no real credibility. This demonstrates that when the facts are in order and cannot be denied, the only viable avenue of attack is *ad hominem* verbiage directed toward the author. Scary!

Oh God, he won!!, December 28, 2000. Reviewer: bryanv from St. Louis Park, MN
Molly Ivins is my hero for 2001! Her writing is priceless, her tape is even better with that wonderfully sassy style only Ann Richards can top. I found myself sitting in my garage listening to the tape (I live too close to work). Yes I'll learn to call him "The Pres" (in time) but now I sure can laugh at his foolish past as a Shrub. Pray for a strong congress. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

a shrub's life..., December 28, 2000 Reviewer: shamrock2 from Colorado Springs, Colorado
Molly Ivins tells it like it is...or at least how she sees it, which is with humor and details. The details mean that AFTER the election, this book still has some kick to it since it will give the country a feel for our new president and how he will "run" things.

The title of her final chapter says a lot about the tone of the book itself: "In Which Our Boy George Toddles Off to Rub for President, Meets the Ferocious National Media, Defeats a Genuine War Hero by the Fairest of Means, and Starts Doing to Al Gore Just What He Did to Ann Richards: Is This Guy Presidential Timber, or What?" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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