OVERLY OPTIMISTIC - The author took a job at the Justice Department shortly after 9/11 and from there migrated to the White House staff. She wound up as the last of a series of press secretaries under President George W. Bush, serving until the day he left office. (Her predecessors as press secretary in the Bush White House were Ari Fleischer, Scott McClellan, and Tony Snow) After the Obama administration began, following several interim jobs in the private sector, Ms. Perino became one of the original cast of “the Five” (a Fox News talk show launched in 2011). She and Greg Gutfield are still (as of 2019) on the show; the other three have moved on and been replaced for various reasons. The book fills in many details, including Perino’s family history and early years in Wyoming and Colorado, how she met her future husband on an airline flight, and her bond with the dogs in her life (currently Jasper). It’s an upbeat story, well told, but I found her experiences as the deputy press secretary and then press secretary of greater interest.
Perino had a close working relationship with, and was fiercely loyal to, President Bush. She acknowledges his growing unpopularity during the 2005-2009 period, blames this primarily on his political opponents, but advocates a spirit of open-mindedness and civility that Bush 43 exemplified. Thus, when Scott McClellan wrote a bitter “tell all” book after leaving the White House staff, the president counseled Perino not to attack it.
Perino’s book came out before Donald Trump was elected president and says nothing about the latter’s bombastic and confrontational style, but it’s tempting to make such a comparison. What a difference! And which approach would be better, if a choice had to be made, the Bush/Perino way (don’t dignify that with a response) or the Trump/Sarah Huckabee Sanders way (never let a slight or insult go unanswered)? The best answer surely lies somewhere in the middle, but we’re talking averages here.
The book ends with a pitch for getting back to the days of political civility. After all, argues Perino, we’re all after the same goals so political debate should just be about the best ways to achieve the desired ends. Many Americans may agree, but in the current political climate this notion seems overly optimistic.