Self and Power in the Presidential Life Writing of George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush
Doğdu, Meryem Elif
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This thesis analyzes of three US Presidents’ understandings of self and power as reflected in their life writing. The scope of this thesis is limited to the period between the years 1989-2009, during which George H. W. Bush (1989-1993), Bill Clinton (1993-2001), and George W. Bush (2001-2009) served respectively. Now defined as the post-Cold War era, during these presidents’ administrations, “hostility against communism” gave way to the “War on Terror.” Acknowledging that current American politics and foreign policies were shaped during these two decades, this thesis examines the notion of power in relation to the subject position of the president. In their autobiographical works, All the Best: My Life in Letters and Other Writings (2013), My Life (2004), and Decision Points (2010) George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush attempt to reassert their power, which ended with their presidency and was diminished by media images and criticisms. In doing so, they revere the ideology of values such as individualism, democracy, freedom, and religious morality, which are identified with national and international American policies. Chapter I offers a close reading of these three works as presidential life writing and analyzes the self in relation to a nationalist American identity. Chapter II further studies the core nature of presidents’ power in relation to America as a superpower. The power invested in presidents is often used in a way that exposes efforts of maintaining a public image (or self) and agreeing with preconceived practices; public opinion and American values are instrumental in making decisions regarding interactions with Middle Eastern countries, and presidential actions often show compliance with former presidential actions. Thus, such power requires justification. These presidents’ exercise of power in their authorship reflects an attempt to influence historical perceptions, and contend and rationalize their former power.