Utter Incompetents Ego and Ideology in the Age of Bush

Thomas Oliphant

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

304 Pages



Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy

The collapse of the Bush presidency has been acknowledged by comedians, politicians, and foreign allies and enemies. Failures include the early flop on energy policy, the fallout of Hurricane Katrina, and the ongoing war in Iraq. The challenge, Oliphant says, is to understand why the past seven years have been so disastrous.

Thomas Oliphant attributes the failures of the George W. Bush administration to that President himself. The political team led by a man with an MBA came to Washington with the mission to run the government in an orderly, businesslike manner. Instead, the country has faced domestic policy issues, international goofs, soaring energy prices, and a health care crisis. Leading into the 2008 election year, the Republicans had lost Congress and promises for future change had not been met.

While few analysts have looked beyond the easy hits and quick gibes and analyzed the totality of the Bush Administration, Oliphant seeks to answer the question: "How could some of the smartest, most experienced and politically savvy people in Washington screw up so badly?" Oliphant inspects the initial projections and promises of Bush and his key senior officials, and the ways in which they lost control of these well-publicized and highly confident plans. By comparing their rhetoric to their record, Oliphant analyzes the Bush administration. His book aims to show how a system so seemingly competent and mechanized could fail.


Praise for Utter Incompetents

"Tom Oliphant is one of the true chroniclers of America. He uses his wit and wisdom to offer critical, insightful, and loving observations of our politics, culture, and society. He is the Will Rogers of our time."—Madeleine Albright

"Done right, political discourse is a feast. And Tom Oliphant brings more to the table than anyone I know. First, the meat. He knows this stuff. Then, there's the delicious insight . . . Then there's his voracious appetite . . . Now, imagine I had extended the metaphor to include all parts of a feast . . . all served with Tom's hilarious wit and innate decency."—Al Franken, author of The Truth (with jokes)

"Boston Globe correspondent Oliphant ably rises to the task of . . . detailing the perfidy of George W. Bush and his administration. Oliphant includes the testimony of disgruntled former insiders such as John DiIulio, the first director of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the first senior Bush adviser to resign, as he recounts the Bush team's hyperpoliticized approach to policy formation and unwillingness to consider information conflicting with their worldview. Saying American history contains few examples of such a pervasive, systemic, persistent record of blunders by a national administration, much less an equally persistent record of a myopic refusal to face the facts, Oliphant sets out to demonstrate how the first president to hold an M.B.A. has managed to bungle nearly every issue he has touched, from Terry Schiavo to the war in Iraq . . . this competent narrative will appeal to readers yearning for one more fix of righteous liberal indignation."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Utter Incompetents

We've done a lot of hard work together over the last three and a half years. We've been challenged and we've risen to those challenges. We're climbing the mighty mountain. I see...

Read the full excerpt


  • Thomas Oliphant

  • Thomas Oliphant has been a correspondent for The Boston Globe since 1968 and its Washington columnist since 1989. He is a native of Brooklyn and a 1967 Harvard graduate. He has been named one of the country's top ten political writers and one of Washington's fifty most influential journalists by The Washingtonian magazine. Mr. Oliphant lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, CBS correspondent Susan Spencer.

  • Thomas Oliphant


    Thomas Oliphant

    Macmillan Speakers Bureau

    represents thought-provoking authors and experts. We can find a speaker uniquely positioned for your audience and budget.

    More info