Book Review: Decision Points by George W Bush

No matter your opinion of George W Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, a lot of momentous events happened during his eight years in office; from the controversy of his election to 9/11 from Iraq and Afghanistan to Katrina and TARP. Getting his perspective on them is worthwhile and that is exactly what Decision Points offers, his take on the most important decisions of his term.  There is a brief biographical introduction but the focus is on critical decisions not a chronological or traditional autobiography.

What struck me most while listening, however, was how unique Bush’s experience was. The son of a president wrestling with what it means to be a successful president; dealing with the consequences of his father’s actions in Iraq; an awareness of the traps of perception and politics, and the circumstances of history, that prevented your dad from being re-elected even as you seek re-election; never getting the chance to have a clear winner declared on election night yet assuming the presidency; on and on it goes.

Whether you think him and idiot or mis-underestimated, evil or just squishy, well-intentioned or badly served or all of the above at different times, what a unique historical figure.

If you are a policy wonk or have a philosophical bent you might be frustrated by the lack of detail and the often simplified arguments provided. For the vast majority of the book the tone and style is relentlessly pragmatic. Bush faced decisions and he made them based on his principles, instincts and the advice of experts and staff. He lays out his thought process and rational but rarely seems willing to wrestle with deeper issues or more philosophical conundrums (the role of government, the efficacy of foreign intervention, the problems of a security state, etc.).

The central role of faith and family in his life, his confidence in his ability to make decisions and in his team, and his dry sense of humor all shine through however. An interesting historical perspective without much deep insight or literary flare.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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