Friday, November 12, 2010


Writing for the Huffington Post, Ryan Grim points out that George Bush repeatedly incorporated unacknowledged passages from other people's books about his administration into his own "memoir." Grim characterizes the memoir as
a mash-up of worn-out anecdotes from previously published memoirs written by his subordinates, from which Bush lifts quotes word for word, passing them off as his own recollections. He took equal license in lifting from nonfiction books about his presidency or newspaper or magazine articles from the time. Far from shedding light on how the president approached the crucial "decision points" of his presidency, the clip jobs illuminate something shallower and less surprising about Bush's character: He's too lazy to write his own memoir.

Bush, on his book tour, makes much of the fact that he largely wrote the book himself, guffawing that critics who suspected he didn't know how to read are now getting a comeuppance. Not only does Bush know how to read, it turns out, he knows how to Google, too. Or his assistant does. Bush notes in his acknowledgments that "[m]uch of the research for this book was conducted by the brilliant and tireless Peter Rough. Peter spent the past 18 months digging through archives, searching the internet[s], and sifting through reams of paper." Bush also collaborated on the book with his former speechwriter, Christopher Michel.

Many of Bush's literary misdemeanors exemplify pedestrian sloth, but others are higher crimes against the craft of memoir. In one prime instance, Bush relates a poignant meeting between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a Tajik warlord on Karzai's Inauguration Day. It's the kind of scene that offers a glimpse of a hopeful future for the beleaguered nation. Witnessing such an exchange could color a president's outlook, could explain perhaps Bush's more optimistic outlook and give insight into his future decisions. Except Bush didn't witness it. Because he wasn't at Karzai's inauguration.
The ironies are sometimes quite delicious:
Bush appears to draw heavily from several of Bob Woodward's books and also from Robert Draper's "Dead Certain". The Bush White House called the books' accuracy into question when they were initially published.
My immediate reaction was, what can you expect from someone who was not only a C student all his life, but one who was proud of it? Many, many C students in college these days can't seem to understand what plagiarism is (even when it's explained to them). I wouldn't be surprised if George Bush really didn't know he was supposed to acknowledge his quotations. But what about his publisher, Crown? Who knows. Maybe they think that because he's a Bush and a former POTUS, the usual rules don't apply...

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