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Decision Points by George W. Bush

Decision Points

by George W. Bush

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Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Decision Points reads like any memoir: highlighting the good while opening oneself to criticism for what your memoir doesn't say. It is nice that Bush published this brief memoir so early, he wants to set records straight while events are still somewhat fresh on peoples' minds.

I have read a few books about life in his administration, particularly in the first term, so I already came into this book with colored lenses.

Something you don't expect to hear is that Bush read hundreds of books, particularly history, while in office-- including 14 biographies of Lincoln. (Contrast that with FDR who aides never knew to read a single book.) Yet, his breadth of reading didn't make him softer or more open to varying points of view-- he still boils events down to black-and-white values and simple choices. How can a man who reads that widely not think more deeply? Or at least not be able to argue with the press and debate better-- produce more intelligent soundbites? It boggles the mind.

One problem I had with the book is that it's not chronological, Bush is looking at certain decisions he made and oftentimes context is lost because there's no mention of what was going on that complicated the fallout of that decision. For example, the early decisions and deliberations on invading Iraq were made very close to Afghanistan still being secured. In hindsight, that's a frequent criticism of Bush's decision-- taking his eye off the ball cost us Bin Laden. Bush spends a few sentences defending himself on this point, but largely the context of the massive nation-building Afghanistan was already going to require is lost in his decision.It was as if it were made in a vacuum.

In some cases, Bush makes strong rebuttals of critics' talking points. For example, he chafes under criticism that No Child Left Behind was an "unfunded mandate," pointing out that he increased federal education spending by 38% and that the program saw the improvements in test scores among minorities and the most vulnerable. He gives a timeline of the Katrina disaster and explains why he praised Mike Brown-- because other aides were praising him-- and gives a detailed list of the federal resources made available before the hurricane hit, and the Constitutional problems he had doing more for the state without the Louisiana Governor's express permission.
Bush throws few people under the bus in his memoir. Certain "junior congressmen" and "a Senator from New York" go unnamed. But he selectively quotes Harry Reid several times to illustrate what was either hypocritical or ridiculous criticism.

He does express regrets. He regrets going after Social Security reform after re-election, saying he should have pursued immigration reform first; in the end, he got neither. He regrets not looking at the intelligence on Iraq more closely (but argues that every major nation in the world--including Russia and China, which opposed the war--gave the U.S. intelligence that Iraq had active WMD programs). He points out that his position-- that he'd make the same decision to invade Iraw today with the same information he was given then-- is the same that John Kerry expressed in the 2004 campaign.

One other weakness of the memoir is on Bush's early life. He's shown as sort of moping through colleges and trying various jobs and experiencing all kinds of things without explaining that he was able to do so because of his parents' money and resources. He loves his parents and the Bush's upbringing of their son is evident, but there seems to be a disconnect between his understanding of his life and what an ordinary mortal would be able to experience.

So many major events happened in Bush's eight years that I look forward to many future biographies and scholarly research done on his administration.

On a side note, I listened to this book on my commutes and the reader, when sped to 1.75 normal speed sounds an awful lot like Bush with his mannerisms. So, the publisher made a good choice.

In all, I give it 3.5 stars out of 5. I enjoyed hearing Bush's defense and his triumphs and failures as a manager. ( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
One of a handful of 5-star books I have read. Every American should read this book, whether you are Democrat, Republican, Conservative, Liberal, Independent, Tea-Party, PETA, whatever. I was riveted to this book. ( )
  utbw42 | Dec 21, 2014 |
Theodore Roosevelt created the modern presidential autobiography. He stressed his accomplishments, minimized his setbacks, and offered insight to his decisions. In the years after 1913 it might have seemed Roosevelt's reflection on his life and presidency was a product of his own prolific authorial nature and not a new trend for former chief executives. William Howard Taft did not want to relive his unhappy four years in office, nor did he have a history of writing. Stricken with a stroke Woodrow Wilson could not write an autobiography. What a shame! His sense of history, writing ability, and professorial bent, could have produced a standout among presidential memoirs, even if it would have been burdened by his self-righteousness. Warren Harding died in office, but one wonders if he would have written one had he lived. Calvin Coolidge revived the memoir,

although it was not very informative. I remember reading Allen Nevins once wondered aloud why on earth Coolidge even bothered to write it. Herbert Hoover left a much more detailed, informative, and lengthy contribution. In this highly defensive work, Hoover sought to vindicate his reputation and offer his version of history. He divided the depression down to a number of smaller segments that he dealt with. Throughout he stuck to the narrative that he thoroughly understood what was going on and acted appropriately. Obviously, it all went to hell with the New Deal Democrats. Thereafter, all presidents who survived their terms wrote autobiographies or memoirs, mostly with the help of ghost writers. Each one has its own character and offers an insight to the presidents who wrote them. For example, Harry Truman's is homey, Dwight Eisenhower's is professional if bland, Nixon's is defensive and consumed by Watergate, and Clinton's is verbose.

Like his predecessors George W. Bush seeks to minimize his defeats and accent his Triumphs in his Decision Points. Skipping detailed discussion of individual policy, I will only offer a couple of general comments on the structure of the book.

1. I sensed that there were two myths Bush consciously sought to confront without mentinoing. First, Dick Cheney's name appears sporadically in the policy discussions. In other words, the Vice President does not appear to exert the same level of influence in Bush's account of his years in office as the media depicted. Second, it was largely reported during his administration that the president avoided internal discussion and debate. In his memoir, Bush recounts many debates within the administration and with allies on important policy matters. Of course, the gate swings both ways. If the president consulted many advisors then they must also take some of the blame for failed policies.

2. The organization of the book works well. It is thematic, not chronological. Nevertheless, I was disappointed that there was no discussion on environmental policies. No one is going to rank Bush as a great environmental president, but that still doesn't mean that Clear Skies, the protected zone in the Pacific, emissions standards, Global Warming, etc., were not worth more mention.

3. I liked the sense of humor. There are many serious topics and having a little humor (largely absent in most other presidential autobiographies) helps to cut some of Bush's defensiveness.

From my blog: http://gregshistoryblog.blogspot.com/2011/12/decision-points.html ( )
  gregdehler | Aug 24, 2014 |
I imagine fans of President Bush will love this book and those who demonized him will ignore it or blindly attack it. When we consider that any leader, whether in business or government, has great characteristics, significant weaknesses, blind spots, and well-focused vision we can become more understanding of their role in organizations and history. President Bush was not a perfect man and the decisions of his presidency, like all of his successors, has led to good and bad consequences for the present. Personality politics will judge your person a saint and the opposition person a demon. Ultimately, future historians will better judge the impact of the leaders of our day.

Politics aside, and whether you agree with his decisions or not, the book provides good insights behind President Bush's decisions and his decision-making process. Such analysis is helpful for leaders in complex organizations. He provides deeper analysis of the issues around major decisions of his presidency than the dismissive reports of the often hostile media. I appreciated his admission of weaknesses and faults in some decisions. On a higher level, provides some good general principles about complex decision-making and taking responsibility for the consequences. ( )
  RhodesDavis | Aug 11, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Decision Points holds the same relation to George W. Bush as a line of fashion accessories or a perfume does to the movie star that bears its name; he no doubt served in some advisory capacity. (...) Decision Points flaunts its postmodernity by blurring the distinction between fiction and non-fiction. That is to say, the parts that are not outright lies are the sunnier halves of half-truths.
A pugnacious determination to be taken seriously is about half an inch below the surface of “Decision Points.” It’s poignant that even as a former two-term president, Bush should feel the need to strut the way he does. The book is full of maxims and advice. “I prided myself on my ability to make crisp and effective decisions,” Bush reveals.
Det skulle överraska om framtida historiker rekommenderade USA:s avgående presidenter att använda Bushs memoarbok som förebild för sina hågkomster.
added by Jannes | editSvenska Dagbladet, Erik Åsard (Nov 30, 2010)
Here is a prediction: “Decision Points” will not endure. Its prose aims for tough-minded simplicity but keeps landing on simpleminded sententiousness. Though Bush credits no collaborator, his memoirs read as if they were written by an admiring sidekick who is familiar with every story Bush ever told but never got to know the President well enough to convey his inner life. Very few of its four hundred and ninety-three pages are not self-serving.
Bush erkänner ett och annat misstag i boken, men han undviker att ta ansvar för sina mest kontroversiella handlingar. Utan några detaljerade argument försvarar han beslutet att använda vattentortyr under förhören av terroristmisstänkta.
added by Jannes | editDagens Nyheter, Martin Gelin (Nov 13, 2010)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307590615, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:57 -0400)

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Decision points is the memoir of America's 43rd president. George W. Bush offers a candid journey through the defining decisions of his life while writing about his flaws and mistakes, as well as his accomplishments.

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