As it contains every known fact about our presidents, with details on birth, death and extramarital affairs — it skims over Kennedy’s liasons, unfortunately — this was a fantastic and fascinating read. At least, it was, until its scope moved within the last 20 years.
The albeit solid 36-page chapter on one-term president George H.W. Bush is overlong with asides and what amounts to cleverness. (For comparison, the three-term-and-change Franklin Roosevelt also warranted 36 pages, much of it taken up by sections on his re-election campaigns.)
The most egregious example of superfluous, contextually inappropriate information comes while describing Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait:
But Saddam, having failed to win concessions from Iran to expand its narrow access to the Persian Gulf, saw in the rich coast of Kuwait the answer to all its problems.
So far so good. Then:
Saddam, whose favorite movie was The Godfather, made the emir of Kuwait an offer that was hard to refuse …
Surely, in describing such a high-tension scenario, listing the immediately relevant facts in chronological order would be far more effective. Saddam is — was — a naturally interesting character, but his actions will speak far louder than his favorite film.