Decision Points by George W. Bush

December 9, 2010

Description (from the publisher): In this candid and gripping account, President George W. Bush describes the critical decisions that shaped his presidency and personal life.

George W. Bush served as president of the United States during eight of the most consequential years in American history. The decisions that reached his desk impacted people around the world and defined the times in which we live.

Decision Points brings readers inside the Texas governor’s mansion on the night of the 2000 election, aboard Air Force One during the harrowing hours after the attacks of September 11, 2001, into the Situation Room moments before the start of the war in Iraq, and behind the scenes at the White House for many other historic presidential decisions.

For the first time, we learn President Bush’s perspective and insights on:

  • His decision to quit drinking and the journey that led him to his Christian faith
  • The selection of the vice president, secretary of defense, secretary of state, Supreme Court justices, and other key officials
  • His relationships with his wife, daughters, and parents, including heartfelt letters between the president and his father on the eve of the Iraq War
  • His administration’s counterterrorism programs, including the CIA’s enhanced interrogations and the Terrorist Surveillance Program
  • Why the worst moment of the presidency was hearing accusations that race played a role in the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, and a critical assessment of what he would have done differently during the crisis
  • His deep concern that Iraq could turn into a defeat costlier than Vietnam, and how he decided to defy public opinion by ordering the troop surge
  • His legislative achievements, including tax cuts and reforming education and Medicare, as well as his setbacks, including Social Security and immigration reform
  • The relationships he forged with other world leaders, including an honest assessment of those he did and didn’t trust
  • Why the failure to bring Osama bin Laden to justice ranks as his biggest disappointment and why his success in denying the terrorists their fondest wish—attacking America again—is among his proudest achievements

A groundbreaking new brand of presidential memoir, Decision Points will captivate supporters, surprise critics, and change perspectives on eight remarkable years in American history—and on the man at the center of events.

Since leaving office, President George W. Bush has led the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. The center includes an active policy institute working to advance initiatives in the fields of education reform, global health, economic growth, and human freedom, with a special emphasis on promoting social entrepreneurship and creating opportunities for women around the world. It will also house an official government archive and a state-of-the-art museum that will open in 2013.

Liked:

  • I liked that unlike other presidential memoirs, this book focused primarily on policy issues. Bush didn’t bore us with a detailed look at his upbringing and family history. Yes, there was a bit of background information about his early years and how he met Laura, but that was about it. I can’t help but contrast this to Clinton’s book, where I didn’t even make it past the part where he went to Cambridge as a Rhodes Scholar.
  • I thought it was great that Bush decided to forgo a ghostwriter and handle the writing duties himself. The book felt very authentic this way.
  • It was very interesting to get Bush’s perspective about all the things that happened during his eventful 8 years in office. We all know what the liberal media thought of him, so it was nice to get a bit of a balanced look here. Obviously, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of the differing accounts….
  • Bush didn’t take nearly as many potshots at his critics as I thought he would. He called a few out by name, but he stuck to the issues for the most part. After the battering he took in the press and in D.C., I would have thought for sure he would strike back, but he restrained himself.
  • I liked that Bush wasn’t afraid to admit to some of the mistakes he made while in office. I also liked how he explained that even though he might have had doubts or reservations about certain policies, he was determined to show resolve when speaking in public. What some people took for stubbornness, I now assess as good leadership.

Disliked:

  • I was hoping for more pages devoted to the 2008 election and how Bush felt about the Republicans that were running in the primary before McCain was nominated. He briefly mentioned McCain and the senator’s unwillingness to have Bush campaign for him, but otherwise talked more about Obama than the Republican candidates.
  • I know the book was dedicated to policy, but it would have been fun to see a bit more of what happened behind the scenes at the White House when the administration wasn’t dealing with national and international crises. I was looking for some more lighthearted things, I guess.

Rating:

I’m not all that political, but I do have conservative leanings, so it’s not surprising that I enjoyed Decision Points by George W. Bush. Contrary to popular opinion, I do not think he was the worst president in U.S. history, and believe, as Bush himself does, that time will bear this out. In 50 or 100 years, historians will look at “43” in a whole different light. Heck, his approval ratings are already experiencing something of a rebound after just 2 years. If you want some insight about some of the biggest decisions Bush made while in office, then this book is for you. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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