The following by an Amazon reader echo my thoughts exactly.
I decided to take a look at the book after recently seeing Meacham promote the paperback edition on Charlie Rose’s show. Meacham fawningly spoke about how Bush believed in “fair play” and how military service was “a defining element” for Bush.
If we judge Meacham’s book solely as a look into the insights of former president George H.W. Bush, then the book is an okay read. However, if the reader is expecting the book to be a thoughtful analysis of Bush’s elitist attitudes, then the book is a miserable failure. One part of the book in which thoughtful analysis is conspicuously lacking is the part in which Meacham discusses George H W Bush’s views about Bill Clinton and the Vietnam War. This part of the book provides a window in which the reader can witness Bush’s self-pitying sense of entitlement.
During the 1992 campaign, it infuriated Bush that he was trailing Bill Clinton, who had opposed the Vietnam War and avoided the draft. Meacham writes, “To Bush, the question about Clinton that overshadowed nearly all the others was the draft. ‘I’m tired of the guy lying and ducking on the draft and not coming clean,’ Bush dictated [9-9-92].” In the same dictation, Bush emphasized—without a hint of irony or self-reflection—how service during the Vietnam War was “a question of truth”; Bush dictates, “ . . . I think it’s very bad not wanting [to participate] when your country is at war.” Particularly revealing is Bush’s response to his defeat on election night; Meacham writes, “[Bush] says to his tape-recorded diary, by himself, sitting in a Hotel: ‘Duty, honor, country, I always thought that’s what Americans were made of, but, quite plainly, it’s not.’” Talk out blaming America first!
The Bush family’s experience with the Vietnam War was uncannily similar. Like the Quayle family, members of the Bush family were strong supporters of the war. George H.W. Bush voted for and supported the war. George W. Bush also supported the war and was such a fervent anti-Communist that he sneeringly referred to New Deal relief efforts as “socialism.” However, despite his swagger, George W Bush, like Quayle, drew the line at personally facing the Viet Cong on the battlefield. As was the case with Quayle, the fix was in: Bush the Elder used his pull to keep Dubya out of harm’s way and pushed him to the front of the very long line to get into the Texas Air National Guard, a notorious safe space for the coddled sons of the Texas elite during the war (the practice of fortunate sons like Bush and Quayle cutting to the front of the line was a clear violation of Department of Defense regulations). Like Quayle, Bush the Elder lamely tried to cover up this inconvenient truth, claiming falsely in his 1987 autobiography that “ ‘little’ George [had been] flying jets in the Air Force.” (Bush certainly knew the difference between the Air Force and the Texas Air National Guard). That sounds a lot like lying and ducking on the draft and not coming clean about it.
The Bush family’s sense of duty, evident during both World Wars, sadly evaporated during the Vietnam War. The Bush family held the view, popular in elite cold war circles, that dying in Vietnam was for Those People (e.g., inner-city minorities and Appalachians). I live near the coal-mining village in Appalachia with the highest Vietnam War fatality rate. The fact that Appalachia had a fatality rate many times the national average is a testament to how the wealthy and connected shamelessly gamed the system and made a mockery out of the long-cherished American value of shared sacrifice. Bush wants Americans to feel ashamed for not supporting him and his pampered protégé in their quest for reelection; I apologize for nothing. It is Bush who should apologize to every American for voting for a war and then using his influence to get his son into a champagne unit, and then trying to pass his son off as a military veteran. It’s shameful that Meacham didn’t point these things out.