Dispatches > The Buzz

Flashtraffic: Frum's book drawing attention

David Frum's new book, The Right Man, is creating big buzz inside the Beltway.

Issue: "30 years of destruction," Jan. 18, 2003

David Frum's new book, The Right Man, is creating big buzz inside the Beltway. Matt Drudge claims top White House officials were "infuriated" by comments describing the president as "tart, not sweet," "a man of fierce anger," and a man who until 1992 was "a study in failure." Mr. Frum says even as he was interviewed by chief speechwriter Mike Gerson, he "strongly doubted that [Bush] was the right man for the job." But his assessment changed markedly after 9/11. Why?

Mr. Frum slowly, fitfully, reluctantly seems to conclude that President Bush's faith in Jesus Christ provided him with deep reservoirs of personal character that make him a great wartime president. Mr. Frum says the first words he heard in the White House were, "Missed you at Bible study." He was immediately uncomfortable. "The reproach about missing the Bible study," he notes, "was directed to Gerson, not to me. Even so, it made me twitch." Mr. Frum goes on to describe himself as "a not especially observant Jew" plunged into "the culture of modern Evangelicalism." He half-expected it to be brash and confrontational. But over time, he found "the evangelicals in the Bush White House were the gentlest souls, the most patient, the least argumentative."

Mr. Frum concludes his book with an interesting anecdote that occurred after he left the White House. In September 2002, the president met with five religious leaders, "three Christian, one Jewish, and one Muslim." Mr. Bush told them that the "one reason that I am in the Oval Office and not in a bar" is because of Christ. He asked for prayer and told the clergymen that his favorite psalm was Psalm 27, which Mr. Frum describes as "one of the Bible's most searing statements of loneliness and remorse." Mr. Frum says it was "an astonishing moment," after which he concluded that George W. Bush "was hardly the obvious man for the job. But by a very strange fate, he turned out to be, of all unlikely things, the right man."

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Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg

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