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'The Right Man'

By Wolf Blitzer
CNN

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President Bush

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Of the long list of "insider" books coming out of Washington, the latest one claims to have intimate knowledge of a president's state of mind, during his most important year.

Like many of these books, this comes from an obscure former staffer, but this is the first insider book about the Bush administration.

David Frum, a Canadian speechwriter for President Bush during his first year in the White House -- a period many believe eventually will define George W. Bush's presidency for better or worse claims credit for writing these famous words to describe Iran, Iraq and North Korea:

"States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, aiming to threaten the peace of the world." These are the words spoken by President Bush during his January 2002 State of the Union Address.

Frum's new book, "The Right Man," offers few big surprises, other than to give his version of why the events of September 11, combined with Bush's personality traits, catapulted his presidency.

But the compliments are often backhanded, as in this passage:

"George W. Bush is a very unusual person: A good man who is not a weak man. He has many faults. He is impatient and quick to anger; sometimes glib, even dogmatic; often uncurious and as a result ill-informed; more conventional in his thinking than a leader probably should be. But outweighing the faults are his virtues: Decency, honesty, rectitude, courage and tenacity."

Frum repeatedly mixes his compliments with a tinge of acid, as in this account of Bush's speech to the country on the night of September 11:

"Bush's great gift to the country after September 11 was his calm and self-restraint. His speech on the night of the 11th had been wrecked by his failure to fuse his message of calm with the appropriate wrath and resolution."

Frum claims in that same chapter that the words he and others had written for the president that night had been "chucked and replaced" by Bush's then-top aide, Karen Hughes.

Overall, the reader gets a portrait of a straightforward, no-nonsense president -- but one who is very guarded, even with those close to him.

This passage reflects Frum's thoughts after one of his first meetings with Bush:

"...Bush is relentlessly disciplined and very slow to trust. Even when his mouth seems to be smiling at you, you can feel his eyes watching you."

Frum resigned last year and rumors circulated that he was forced out because his wife had e-mailed friends to claim credit for him, for the "axis of evil" speech.

Taking personal credit for the president's words is not looked upon favorably in this White House.

Frum claims he had resigned a month before the e-mail.



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