The book does not demonstrate that the president (BEG ITAL)is(END ITAL) in a state of denial. His almost exclusive and increasingly grating reliance on the rhetoric of unwavering resolve may be mistaken. It certainly has undermined his reputation as a realist. But he believes a president must be ``the calcium in the backbone'' of the nation, so the resolute face that he thinks he must show the nation does not preclude private anguish.
The book's central figure, however, is not Bush, whose lack of inquisitiveness is a defect, but Rumsfeld, whose abrasive inquisitiveness is supposedly a defect. The prologue begins with Rumsfeld's selection as defense secretary. The 45th and final chapter contains much about Bush, but revolves around an interview with Rumsfeld.
The book actually includes one heartening story that should enhance Rumsfeld's reputation. On Veterans Day, 2005, the president traveled to a Pennsylvania Army depot to deliver a speech announcing the new military policy for Iraq, the policy of ``clear, hold and build.'' Woodward says Rumsfeld, having read the speech, called Andy Card, the White House chief of staff, a half-hour before Bush was to deliver it, and said, ``Take that out.'' Card replied that the three words were the centerpiece of the speech, not to mention the war strategy. Rumsfeld replied, ``Clear, we're doing. It's up to the Iraqis to hold. And the State Department's got to work with somebody on the build.''
At last, a division of labor that uses the U.S. military only for properly military purposes, and assigns responsibilities in a way that will force Iraq's government to grow up. In the name of counterinsurgency, there has been too much of what today's military argot calls ``full-spectrum operations'' -- operations that go beyond killing insurgents to building schools, connecting sewers and other civil projects that keep the training wheels on the Iraqi government's bicycle and keep the United States chasing the chimera of ``nation-building.''
``Where's the leader?'' Bush, according to Woodward, has exclaimed in dismay about the Iraqi government's dithering. ``Where's George Washington? Where's Thomas Jefferson? Where's John Adams, for crying out loud?'' For a president to ask that question about Iraq, that tribal stew, is enough to cause one to ask it about the United States.