George Bush vs. Saddam Hussein: Military Success! Political Failure
By Roger Hilsman
Lyford Books, 1992, 264 pp
Marching In Place: The Status Quo Presidency Of George Bush
By Michael Duffy and Dan Goodgame
Simon and Schuster, 1992, 316 pp
These books share a theme: George Bush is a man who passionately wants to be president but has little idea precisely why. Duffy and Goodgame, two Time White House correspondents, are harder on Bush over foreign policy than most Americans (including this one) would be; on the other hand, they scarcely draw judgments about the appointment of Clarence Thomas. Their portrait of Bush is vivid if familiar: the most patrician president since Franklin Roosevelt, with manners to match, surrounded by upper-class white men throughout his life, who is capable of almost anything in pursuit of the presidency but whose ambition once there seems limited "to not make things worse." Hilsman's title is trendy but no mere hype, for the central question of his history and assessment of the war, its roots and aftermath is why the United States did not choose alternatives short of war instead of an American war. The answer, from a long-time president-watcher and Kennedy State Department hand, comes down to the "president as sovereign," angry because a fellow sovereign, Saddam Hussein, deceived him.