|The Right Man
By David Frum
In January of 2001 David Frum, an author and journalist, was appointed as a deputy speechwriter for economic matters for the White House. February of 2002 Frum left the White House and began writing “The Right Man” shortly afterwards. The book Frum describes his work and his experiences with President during his year as a speechwriter for the White House.
In first two chapters we see Frum describing the lengths which the president went to be the “Un-Clinton.” The book describes how the President felt maintaining a formal environment in the White House was important. We find out that the President always refers to his assistants by their last names. Much of these first few chapters are largely humdrum. This part of the book which constitutes almost a third of the book were either information that was generally known to the public or simply trivial to most readers. Someone hoping to get the crux of Mr. Frum's reasons why Bush is the “Right Man” probably wouldn't miss much by skipping the pre 9/11 chapters. One of the few areas that was worthy of note in these chapters was the discussion of a guest worker program with Mexico. The way Frum described the administration's talks with Vincente Fox one would think that it was Fox's unwillingness to support opening Mexican oil drilling to foreign investment that was the primary obstacle to implementation. I felt Frum was naïve to think that this could have been implemented with Fox's support since he glossed over the opposition from conservative Republicans who certainly weren't going to support anything that resembled the 1986 amnesty proposal. In 2004 when Bush finally introduced his guest worker program to Congress conservative Republicans provided significant opposition.
Perhaps one of the more interesting chapters in the book is when Frum describes his experience on September 11th. President Bush's actions on that day have been written about liberally but far less has been written about what happened to the White House staff. Frum provided an interesting tale about how poorly prepared the administration had been in handling the White House staff in the event of a disaster necessitating the evacuation of the White House. Something as simple as alternative office space was only available because one of the staffers was married to someone in the management of Daimler Chrysler.
In the addressing the administration's overtures to Islam we see a very justified criticism of the administration policies. In this regard I believe that Frum provides a rather compelling argument that it was rather silly for the President to attempt to appeal to Muslims throughout the world. An example of the problems that Frum elucidates was Bush's attempts to convince the world that he thought Islam was a peaceful religion. When the president stated in his September 20th joint session speech that Bin Laden and his followers were “... a fringe movement that perverts the teachings of Islam” it was clear that the president wasn't really in a position to make such a judgment.
The final chapter when he leaves the White House because he had few responsibilities as an economic speechwriter in the months after 9/11 and foresaw little chance of that changing in the near future. Frum finally argues that Bush is successful because he is moderate, persistent, and bold. These points seemed like they didn't really fit very well with the book since many of the arguments for this happened after Frum left the White House which this book says little about. Perhaps Frum might have had a better argument had the book been written a year or two later. Overall the book is more of an interesting first person narrative of the first year of the Bush White House than it is an assessment of the administration's success in governing.