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Molly Ivins, depending on how you look at it, has had the good luck to be in the right place at the right time–in Texas, that is. She, and her sidekick, Lou Dubose, have been able to chronicle the life and career of the forty-third president from the ground up. But, had Al Gore been the favorite candidate of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, this book wouldn’t exist. Notthatthetwoauthorsdidn’ttrytomakethathappenbackthen. Their first book, Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, laid out in 2000 most of the reasons not to vote for then Texas governor Bush. And the voters did reject him. But, that book’s title was way too hopeful. President Bush’s political life isn’t short, though. Despite the long odds, if it is brought to an end in ’04, Bushwacked will have helped. To say that Ivins and Dubose have written a devastating portrait (and indictment) of “GeeDubya” and his administration is an understatement . Bushwacked, despite its snappy title, isn’t just another example of the current legion of political attack books. That’s what I expected,  Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose: Bushwacked 174 175 given the fact that Ivins is a syndicated columnist, one of the most perceptive and biting of the liberal persuasion. When she writes in short length, she’s a master at cracking a rhetorical bullwhip. But what IfoundwasmorealongthelinesofanI.F.Stoneinvestigation,western style. Stone was a maverick Washington journalist famous for reading whatotherreportersoverlooked,longgovernmentreportsandendless congressional records, and finding nuggets therein. Ivins and Dubose follow that lead. Their book delves deeply below the surface of weekly pontificating. As they point out, “Keeping an eye on the Corps of Engineersaloneisenoughtooccupyacitizenfull -time.”Buttheymanage to follow down the stories of the Bush administration’s “malfeeance” (as they print George W.’s pronunciation of malfeasance). Ivins and Dubose accomplish this through both printed sources, and interviews with the subjects involved: “This book is about the connections between what happens in people’s lives and the decisions made by often obscure parts of the federal government.” Then they add their typical self-deprecating stylistic flourish: “Some concept, eh? Policy matters; stop the presses.” Most of people they deal with are the folk who are on the short end of the policies President Bush has set down–though one of the best chapters details the effect on one Texas millionaire, who considers Bush’s largesse to the rich scandalous. Here’s what the tax cuts have wrought, what the environmental roll-backs have done, why hamburgers occasionally kill people, portraits of the children who are left behind, how the Bush-Cheney energy handouts to their corporate friends,whilechampioninggovernmentderegulationandcompetition over cooperation, result in the August blackout, and other debacles yet to come. But, what the book ultimately offers is a cure to the national historical amnesia the country has suffered since 9/11. Ivins and Dubose 176 aren’t taken in by the image most Americans have been sold of George W. Bush. They watched him develop as a public figure up close and personal in Texas. One of the myths they debunk is that George W. “speaks” Spanish: a couple of sentences come out and “then they cue the mariachis.” But, as they acknowledge, Americans want to think our president is fluent in the language of Cervantes. Cynicism and optimism are at war in the American character. Missouri might call itself the “show me” state, but we all live in the “land of opportunity.” They point out that,after9/11,“Thewholecountrywasdyingtohelp–readytodonate blood, money, sign up for the Marines, ride bikes, anything we could think of. Instead our president told us to shop.” Here’s an example of the authors’ regular history-rich method. When discussing Bush’s fight in ’02 over extending (or, rather, not extending) unemployment insurance, we learn: “Unemployment insurance was a New Deal program, created in 1935. Even then everyone understoodthatitservedtwopurposes.Soft-heartedliberalscelebrate the first: it provides income support for jobless workers and their families . Clear-eyed business people celebrate the second: it props up the economy by keeping consumer spending alive during economic slowdowns . Those dollars flow right through the hands of the unemployed workingclassandintothebankaccountsoftheowningclass.Thedirty secret of the New Deal is what a giveaway it was to businesses big and small.” That sort of clarity leaps from every page. If there is a populist style, Ivins and Dubose have mastered it. Writing about the Iraq adventure, they report that “the war itself broughtanalmostsurrealdisjuncturebetweenwhatAmericanssawof the war and...


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