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Book Review  

   The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush
      —By Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose
            Random House, $19.95

Review By Steven Hart

Strange things happen in the higher reaches of the socioeconomic scale. Gravity is reversed; cause and effect don't necessarily match up. How else to explain the fact that George W. Bush — an affable but congenitally underqualified man kept aloft only by the pressure of his family name and fortune — has managed to fail his way toward the Republican presidential nomination.

    As one Republican pollster put it succinctly in 1990, as Dubya considered running for the governorship of Texas: "George, everybody likes you but you haven't done anything. You need to go out in the world and do something — you just haven't done shit. You're a Bush and that's all."

    He's a third-generation photocopy, with all the fading that implies. His father was a standout student at Yale, served with distinction in the military and made a fortune in the oil business. The son was a party-hearty college screwup, a draft-sidestepper who made sure he would never get any closer to Vietnam than practice flights over the Gulf of Mexico. He's an oilman who managed to hemorrhage money in everything he did.

    Well, Dubya has finally accomplished something. With the enthusiastic — some might say suicidal — help of the Republican Party hierarchy, he's beaten a demonstrably stronger and more electable candidate to win the GOP presidential nomination, apparently because (a) he can raise money like nobody's business and (b) he isn't going to tinker with campaign-finance law. That's it.

    If this assessment seems unduly harsh, check out Shrub, a quick tour of Bush's curriculum vitae by columnist Molly Ivins and Texas Observer editor Lou Dubose. The book reads like a collection of newspaper clippings cobbled together and run through Ivins' special Salty Texas Gal software. But the authors' relentless focus on Bush's record, such as it is, gives the book nutritional content out of proportion to its slim size.

    Steven Hart is a writer based in New Jersey.

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