RIVAL GOP PRESIDENTIAL candidate John McCain may have stunned the publishing world with the success of his best-selling memoir, Faith of My Fathers, but there’s no truth to the jokey rumor that George W. Bush’s autobiography is called Faith of My Father’s Name. At the suggestion of his administrative assistant, Ofelia Vanden Bosch<, the Texas governor christened the book—which arrives in stores on November 17—A Charge to Keep (William Morrow), after a hymn by Charles Wesley, “A Charge to Keep I Have,” that was read at his inauguration in 1995. The hymn is also the inspiration for an equestrian painting of the same name that hangs in Bush’s office; it’s on loan from his old Midland pal Joe O’Neill, whose father had given it to him as a wedding gift. A photo of the painting appears on the back cover of the book. On the front is a portrait of Bush taken by Austinite Michael O’Brien for Fortune magazine earlier this year.
As is the case with Bush himself, the book has an appealing exterior, but the question on everyone’s minds is: What’s inside? A sneak peek at the edited manuscript reveals at least three things that will be of interest to the Washington, D.C., press corps: There’s no Pat Buchanan-esque flirtation with a fascist dictator, the narrator is not a fictional character named Edmund Morris, and the question of whether Bush used drugs goes unanswered (it’s addressed in only the most basic terms, in a brief monologue on the media’s “gotcha” mentality that will be familiar to anyone who watched his stutter-step press conferences on the subject this summer).
Structurally speaking, in 243 pages mostly ghostwritten by his communications director, Karen Hughes, Bush lays out his life story in a nonlinear chronology that would make Quentin Tarantino proud. Among the topics discussed in the sixteen chapters are faith (a sermon by Mark Craig, the pastor of Austin’s First United Methodist Church, gets wide play), joining the National Guard (sorry, no mention of Ben Barnes); marriage and parenting (first lady Laura Bush’s seeming inability to conceive nearly led them to adopt a baby from the Edna Gladney Home in Fort Worth); the death penalty (we learn that one of his twin daughters announced her opposition to capital punishment at the dinner table during the Karla Faye Tucker free-for-all), and—naturally—baseball.
Best of all is Bush’s recounting of his favorite summer job during college: He peddled sporting goods at the Sears, Roebuck on Main Street in downtown Houston, where he was the leading salesman of Ping-Pong balls. He can only hope to be as successful selling himself today.
Speaking of Buchanan, when he was interviewed at his home in January 1998 for George Wallace: Settin’ the Woods on Fire—a documentary by University of Texas at Austin associate professor Paul Stekler and Boston filmmaker Daniel McCabe that will air on PBS stations on April 26—the prospective Reform Party presidential candidate had this to say about the infamous Alabama segregationist: “I don’t think the governor owes anyone an apology…[He] was a man out of a place and time who defended the traditions and customs with which he was raised…Maybe you can say the cause was wrong, but I think the man in many ways was right.” Ross Perot’s dream date gets dreamier every day.