STANFORD—The author Robert Draper offered a revealing look at the process of researching and writing his New York Times best seller Dead Certain (Free Press, 2007) in his talk “Inside the Bush White House” on Monday, October 1, at the Hoover Institution. “What made him [Bush] decide to speak to me several times, with remarkable candor, is that he felt comfortable with me,” said Draper. This president, Draper believes, more than anything, requires comfort, calling it a “hallmark of his presidency.”
Listen to Robert Draper's talk (25:34)
Draper stated that he might not appear to be an obvious choice to write a book on the Bush presidency but that he has been a longtime observer of the president. In 1998, when Bush was governor of Texas, Draper wrote a profile on him and his presidential aspirations. Draper’s careful research for that article, including interviews with members of Bush’s gubernatorial administration, drew the governor’s attention and led to an invitation to interview him. When Draper began writing this book about Bush and his presidency, he did not have the White House’s cooperation but employed the same techniques as he did when writing the profile, which, again, led to six one-hour interviews with President Bush that are featured in the book.
Draper went on to say that he saw the president’s comfort level with people as key to understanding him and how his administration has developed. In Bush’s early years in Texas he was seen as being his own man, Draper said, a view he subscribed to at the time, as well. Over time, however, Draper’s view changed; he cited examples that he believes demonstrate that President Bush is not as secure within himself as he might have once appeared. For instance, Draper pointed out, Bush went out of his way to differentiate himself from his father; he went to some of the best schools America has to offer but denigrated the Ivy League and never distinguished himself academically; and, as a presidential candidate, he surrounded himself with nationally inexperienced yet loyal Texans, such as Karen Hughes and Karl Rove. Despite his long association with many of his staff and advisers, they were not known for telling him uncomfortable truths, Draper said.
As president Bush continued to surround himself with people who made him comfortable, Draper said. In the Bush administration, people have been chosen who are loyal but not always up to the task, Draper added.
Draper has been a correspondent for Gentlemen’s Quarterly Magazine for the past ten years. Before that, he was senior editor at Texas Monthly Magazine for six years. Draper has authored Rolling Stone Magazine: The Uncensored History, a social biography of that publication (Doubleday, 1990) and coauthored Four Trials (Simon & Schuster, 2003) with presidential candidate John Edwards. Draper’s first novel, Hadrian’s Walls, was published by Knopf in 1999. Draper received a B.A. in the Plan 11 Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin in 1979.