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Misunderestimating Bush By: Shawn Macomber
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Misunderestimated by Bill Sammon is available from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore for $22.95.

Misunderestimated is meant to serve as a seemingly unique purpose: amid the sea of raging screeds attacking President George W. Bush, this book is meant to be a balanced, polite and positive look at the past two years of George W. Bush’s presidency. It is a mission Bill Sammon accomplished with skill and verve.

In a larger sense, however, the book is a stinging indictment of a press that is less and less content to simply report the news, favoring instead to put each story “in context.” Due to the overwhelmingly liberal nature of the fourth estate, this has amounted to freely repeating the Left’s view of President Bush’s every initiative.   


It is hard to imagine a reporter better suited to exposing their hypocrisy than Bill Sammon. As the Senior White House Correspondent for the Washington Times, Sammon brings a wealth of insight, razor-sharp wit, and plenty of behind-the-scenes dishing to Misunderestimated, just as he did with his previous books, At Any Cost and Fighting Back.


In Sammon’s account, the press is constantly caught up in a mob mentality, eager to make the worst of every situation and unmoved by logic or reason. See, for instance, their insistence upon calling Iraq a “quagmire” just days into the battle, with liberation just days away. And when our troops made it to Baghdad in an astonishingly short period of time, they just started openly fretting over whether our quick victory would make us appear like “a bully.” The fact that they had come to the same premature and misguided conclusions three weeks in the Afghanistan campaign didn’t deter them, because both mistakes were triggered by their ideology. 


Sammon is particularly incisive and damning when he examines how Dan Rather and CNN coddled and sometimes even praised Saddam Hussein in order to get an exclusive story.


The home front gets no better coverage. Misunderestimated opens with Bush under siege from all sides by out of control protesters in Portland, Oregon (“Little Beirut”). Protesters rush the car with signs like, “Bush: Wanted Dead or Alive” – with the word “alive” crossed out. Another sign simply showed a Bush with a gun at his temple. A third protester shunned violence, demanding the nation “Impeach the Court-Appointed Junta and the Fascist, Egomaniacal, Blood-Swilling Beast.” Yet the same national press that had, for the past decade, been discussing the anger of the so-called “Clinton Haters” chose to whitewash the protestors.


After Bush gets in, the protestors rough up a wheelchair-bound elderly man attempting to get into the Bush event and a group of gay softball players standing outside the hotel mistaken for Bush supporters.


However, it is in Sammon’s book that most people first read of this. Once again, what would have been a hate crime at any Republican event was conveniently left out of press stories.


Misunderestimated lays out in precise detail the behind-the-scenes picture from some of the President’s greatest triumphs: pointing out flora and fauna to an uninterested liberal press corps during a hike on his ranch; the elaborate scheming and disguises needed to get Bush secretly onto a Thanksgiving plane secretly bound for Baghdad; Bush’s preparation for his landing onto the U.S.S. Lincoln aircraft carrier, and his shaking the plane’s controls to get a rise out of his Secret Service detail.


As with the documentary, Journeys with George,, Misunderestimated is also full of Bush’s homespun humor. When the pilot flying him to an aircraft carrier warns him that there is a chance something could go wrong, Bush tells him, “You don’t need to worry about that; we’ve got a great vice-president.”


The book is also full of insightful interviews with numerous administration officials. “Everybody (in the press) says Powell and all those generals suffer from Vietnam Syndrome,” Powell tells Sammon, for example. “No I don’t…I think the press is more sycophantic with respect to Vietnam than any general I’ve ever served with.” At another point, Condoleeza Rice tells Sammon that the original plan had been to follow up Powell’s presentation on WMDs at the UN with two more on human rights abuses and Saddam’s ties to terrorism, something that would have been very helpful today in hindsight.


For those of us well-versed in liberal bias, Bush’s open mockery of the press corps is a welcome topic of Sammon’s review.


When David Gregory of NBC asks the president for an impromptu press conference out at his Crawford, Texas home, for example, Bush tells him, “Yes, what do I care? I don’t watch television.”


In another exchange, a reporter asks Bush why it is he doesn’t pay much attention to the press. “Well, because sometimes your opinion matters to me and sometimes it doesn’t,” Bush tells him forthrightly.


“Well, how do you know what the people think?” the reporter retorted.


“People don’t make up their mind based upon what you write,” Bush snaps back.


Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill called Bush “a blind man in a roomful of deaf people.” Bill Sammon reveals a principled man with the ability to take the long view – and exposes his opponents as headline-hungry journalists and Democrats who can’t think beyond the next news cycle. Unable to fathom his dismissal of their much-prized opinions, his opponents content themselves with the belief that Bush is stupid.


And the press has many devotees among this number. Sammon remembers that Michale Wolff of New York magazine publicly hoped that “the righteous Bushies...falter” in Iraq. This, of course, translates to a U.S. loss, with attendant American casualties. Wolff later wrote that, “The camaraderie of people (journalists) who understood the joke was very reassuring and comfortable.” But is it indeed reassuring that so many journalists dwell in so narrow a circle that they never have their views challenged?


As Bill Sammon demonstrates, George W. Bush never backs down from doing what he believes is right for the passing gratification of being “reassured” or “comforted” by the press, the French or the fanatical Bush-haters who long for his bloodshed. Like Ronald Reagan before him, Bush demonstrates perseverance and leadership. And Misunderestimated shows that Bush has both qualities in spades.


Misunderestimated by Bill Sammon is available from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore for $22.95.

Shawn Macomber is a staff writer at The American Spectator and a contributor to FrontPage Magazine. He also runs the website Return of the Primitive.

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