I have been glued to the interviews and write-ups surrounding President George W. Bush‘s book tour for his memoir, Decision Points. President Bush chose to sit down with Matt Lauer, Oprah, and Sean Hannity, among others.
Of course, Mr. Greenman’s long title that includes the words “long road to restoring a reputation” says much about his viewpoint, and he digresses into the usual partisan sniping about Iraq and how we will never forget, blah, blah, blah. More evidence that objective journalism and opinion journalism have lost their distinctiveness.
The saddest pull quote was from an article in the St. Petersburg Times, where Colette Bancroft interviewed two historians about Presidential memoirs in general:
“Although historians may comb presidential memoirs for revelations, and although they may sell well to the public, Reeves says he thinks they are ‘way up there among unread books. With a president’s book, there’s so much discussion on TV, radio, print, everywhere that you can talk about it without reading it.'”
A telling comment, and a reflection of the devolution of education in America.
I thought the Lauer interview was the least interesting. Matt Lauer came off a bit pompous, as he was attempting to appear inquisitive and hard-hitting. And the editing reduced the interview to a bunch of sound bites instead of a reflective treatise on what I consider one of the most compelling presidencies of my lifetime.
Oprah did much better, primarily because she is a more accomplished interviewer than Lauer. Her sit down allowed us to hear President Bush’s full answers and watch his body language. It felt as though we were having the conversation in our own living rooms, which I guess is Oprah’s calling card anyway. The interview is worth viewing, and Real Clear Politics excerpts it on their site.
Hannity’s was probably the least formal of the three, more akin to two friends shooting the breeze, than an interview with the former Leader of the Free World. Where it succeeded was in giving us a view of Bush’s world, then and now, and how it shaped him.
Notwithstanding the sorry editing of the Lauer interview, in these three television appearances, President Bush came across relaxed, exhibiting a wicked sense of humor couched in light sarcasm, and as very comfortable in his own skin. And dare I say it? He is a fascinating, multi-layered human being, which is the polar opposite of how the mainstream media chose to portray him in the years of his Presidency.
None of these attributes reflect our current President. He takes himself much too seriously to employ humor effectively, and is not at all comfortable in that substantially thin skin. Layers give depth, substance, and sometimes give insight into how someone might lead or act. President Obama likes to obscure his layers, which is telling in and of itself. A stark contrast of two Presidents, and contrasts not lost on Howard Kurtz. The Decider v. the Agonizer.
Most of the writeups are coming from the perspective of the memoir as a “reinvention tour” or “crafting a legacy”. But President Bush, in his interview with Matt Lauer, said it best: “I hope I’m judged a success, but I’m going to be dead, Matt, when they finally figure it out.”
In this information age where a President’s life and times is reduced to sound bites and images, I feel reading a Presidential memoir should be required for everyone, no matter what your political stripe. Having heard enough from both sides, it will be refreshing to hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
Today’s my reading day, so I’m diving in.