Father and son relationships are tricky when everyone is in the same profession, but in a household that is thick with presidents, the awkward moments are inevitable. A new one has arrived with the publication of Jon Meacham’s book about George H.W. Bush in which the former president weighs in on his son George W. Bush’s presidency.But why didn't anyone in the Bush campaign anticipate that this would be a problem?
In the book, Destiny and Power: The America Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president says that “iron-ass” Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld didn’t serve his son, the 43rd president, well. Cheney, who was secretary of defense under the elder Bush, “set up his own State Department,” according to the 41st president, and Rumsfeld was “arrogant,” never taking into account the views of those who disagreed with him.
This is probably not what Jeb Bush wants anyone to be talking about right now as his campaign struggles: the mistakes associated with the Iraq invasion and the fascinating complexities of his family tree.
It's not as if the publication of this book was an unforeseeable event. Here's a Publishers Weekly article from 2010 noting that Meacham was "under contract at RH [Random House] for ... a biography of George H.W. Bush." Here's Meacham telling The Hill in 2012, "I am doing a biography of George H.W. Bush. It’ll be [out in] four or five years." (Well, it turned out to be three.)
Here's "Fall 2015 Announcements: Memoirs: True Tales," from the June 19, 2015, issue of Publishers Weekly:
Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham (Nov. 10, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-1-4000-6765-7). Pulitzer Prize–winning author Meacham pens a biography of George H.W. Bush based on research, private interviews with Bush, and exclusive access to his diaries.So it was known at least as far back as June that the book was scheduled to be published on November 10 of this year. And the fact that Poppy was cooperating with Meacham was no secret, as we've known for quite some time via the book's Amazon page:
Drawing on President Bush’s personal diaries, on the diaries of his wife, Barbara, and on extraordinary access to the forty-first president and his family, Meacham paints an intimate and surprising portrait of an intensely private man who led the nation through tumultuous times.How could Jeb not be prepared for the publication of this book? How could he not have consulted with his father and learned what his father told Meacham, and then carefully crafted a response? For that matter, why did Poppy, a cagey old political pro, get into these matters with Meacham at all when he knew there were still presidential races to be run by the Bush family?
This crisis in the Bush campaign was as predictable as the "would you have invaded Iraq?" question. And, of course, Jeb bungled that as well. It seemed as if he had no idea it was coming. The same can be said for this book.