Recommended Reading – “Decision Points”
When George W. Bush’s long awaited memoirs, “Decision Points,” hit bookstores earlier this month, it was like the Internet slowed down … for just a day or so.
The book shot to the top of sales charts as both supporters and detractors of the controversial president rushed to get their hands on a copy. Though I only got mine about four days ago, I was no less eager than the rest of America to read Bush’s first-hand account of his presidency.
Let me quickly say this: if you’re looking for a count by count critique of the President’s book, you’re not going to find it here. Instead, I’d rather talk about some overall impressions, then leave most of the evaluation to the reader, because you are going to want to read this book.
The title is well chosen. Rather than leave an all encompassing blow-by-blow of his eight years in office, President Bush instead decided to touch on some of the major issues of his presidency, giving accounts of the decision making process involved in the policies he and his administration developed to deal with each issue.
This format is both the book’s strength, and perhaps its only weakness (if you can call it a weakness.) For example, there are separate chapters on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. One is lead through each separately, with only brief mention of the other.
Overall, this works. Having an entire chapter devoted to the information and thought processes leading President Bush to push for a war in Iraq is very informative, but sometimes it gets a little confusing, as each chapter moves from 2000 to 2008. Start a new chapter, and one is back at the beginning again.
While “Bush’s Wars” are certainly given their fair share of printed pages, the president also covers the financial crisis, Hurricane Katrina and his at the time highly controversial decision on funding stem cell research (a chapter I found most particularly insightful.)
The first chapter, “Quitting” – so named as it deals with Bush’s struggle with alcohol – is an extremely candid look into the early life of America’s 43rd president. There are some surprisingly personal revelations, including the discussion of a beloved sister lost early in life to cancer.
Bush’s writing style is straightforward and engaging. While clearly writing for posterity, he neither overcomplicates his prose to make him seem more “intellectual,” nor does he talk down to his reader. He is candid, respectful and charming. It’s almost as if one sat down with a favorite uncle over cheeseburgers while he regaled you with stories about his life. Only that uncle just happened to have been the most powerful man in the world during one of the most tumultuous periods of modern history.
One quickly learns to view Bush as a principled man with a good handle on a linear and logical thought process. He speaks lovingly of his family. He admits where he went wrong. He corrects what he sees as errors in the perception of him as portrayed in the media. He supports his friends, cabinet members and their decisions. And, though he has no problems shedding light on disagreements with political allies and opponents, he does so in such a way as to not disparage the character of those who so often disparaged his.
Bush even talks about Barack Obama in very positive terms in the chapter on Afghanistan.
While GWB has no problem vindicating himself where history has already proven him right – including referencing some of his better quotes, speeches and personal interactions – he also has way of admitting his mistakes with a self-deprecating, but not self-loathing or abasing, style that is completely charming.
Those who still have problems with our great nation’s involvement in Iraq, and ending the bloodthirsty reign of Saddam Hussein, will find the chapter on Iraq particularly illuminating, as President Bush outlines many of the policies that lead to that involvement, including those of his predecessors: Bill Clinton, and George Bush, Sr.
Naturally, Bush made use of declassified and official documents to assist him in his recollection. Of course, there were editors. But one is left with no doubt the stories outlined in “Decision Points” are told in the words and writing style of the man himself.
Regardless of what one thinks of the Bush administration, and George W. Bush’s time in office (personally, I like him), one can’t help but find that, whatever else he might be, Bush is a true American and patriot, with a good heart.
After reading “Decision Points,” I feel much close to the former president, his family and an understanding of the behind the scenes decisions he made. Even where I disagreed with him, I can’t find he made poor choices on purpose, or that he didn’t try to do the best he could, given his personal philosophies, faith and moral character.
Currently, Amazon.com reviewers have given “Decision Points” a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. I actually think it should be closer to 5 out of 5. I highly recommend “Decision Points” for anyone interested in the first decade of the 21st Century as seen through the eyes of the man who lead the free world during that time.
“Decision Points” can be purchased at your favorite brick and mortar retailer, or it can be found online in a multitude of formats, including eBook versions for the Kindle and othe readers, and in audiobook format.