May 05, 2015

Dana Perino’s And the Good News Is...

All right – I’ll admit it.

When I received an email from her publicist asking if I wanted a copy of this book, I had a certain amount of. . . well, not fear, exactly, but maybe anxiety. After all, the title and advance material I had seen made me wonder if this was going to be a “fluffy” book that was long on chatter and short on substance. And I’ll be honest, I’ve quit watching cable news on a regular basis, and found her Fox show, “The Five”, to be hard to watch because of its format and the presence of Bob Beckel. But after sleeping on it, I decided to accept the offer. What was the worst thing that could happen? I’d be disappointed and develop amnesia about writing a review.

I made the right decision there – I’ve rarely had more fun with a book, and I grew in respect for Ms. Perino.

Now let me tell you quite clearly that this is a memoir that is written with a sunny disposition. It is full of positive stories that lift you up. But this isn’t “happy talk” – it is a reflection on how one can learn and grow even in the most trying of circumstances while working in the klieg lights of the White House press room in years of political crisis. It is about the startlingly beautiful moments that one can experience in such a setting, and the goodness of men and women in positions of power – even those with whom we disagree. It is about how to be better and more effective at what you do and how you communicate. It is, dare I say it, a damn fine book – and one that I think made me a better person for having read it.

But where I believe this book will be of long term value is in its depiction of the Bush White House generally and President George W. Bush more specifically. Bush 43 left office under a cloud, the victim of slanders, libels, and calumnies from detractors on both the Left and the Right, and with a low approval rating. The stories Perino shares, though, show the depth of Bush’s humanity and faith, his love of country and love of the men and women who were placed in harm’s way because of the armed conflicts that marked his presidency. One cannot read of Bush weeping at the bedside of a Marine as he awarded the Purple Heart or of his humbly allowing the mother of a serviceman to berate him without a word of self-defense without recognizing that he, like Lincoln, took each casualty to heart and bore it as a wound upon his soul. Just as stories of the real Jimmy Carter have emerged from behind the scenes and detracted from his image, I believe that the revelations of insiders like Perino about Bush will serve to improve his standing in the eyes of Americans for generations to come. What we learn about here is a man who had the strength of character to forgive his political enemies and to stay loyal to former allies who failed to show loyalty to him. The decency of George W. Bush, sandwiched between the nastiness that marked the administrations that preceded and followed his, ought to stand as an exemplar for future generations of leaders.

Now I could go on and compose some beautiful words to summarize the book and heap praises upon the author. All would be deserved. But I think that doing so would take away from what I really want to say, so instead I will close with just three words.

Read this book.

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