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Decision Points by George W. Bush

Decision Points

by George W. Bush

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He comes across as a little superficial, but not as unsympathetic.


I think it’s interesting that Bush says that right when he was starting out in politics, he was hurt by being painted as the liberal outsider in Texas because of his Ivy League background. (Not that he comes across as a big student, but you know how ads are.) There’s something very intimidating about being called an outsider by a conservative. Sometimes liberals do it, and sometimes liberals call you cruel/oppressive, and I could be wrong, but there’s this real primitive Darwinian intimidation to being called an outsider or a weirdo by a right-winger.

I realize that doesn’t make Republicans sound good, but it makes Bush’s story more comprehensible if you think that that’s what he was afraid of more— because you can’t out-threaten against that.


I was surprised how many Democrats there are in Texas state politics, although they sound distinctly Texan. “Tough and earthy”, working-class people.

.... Bush won over a quarter of the black vote to become governor of Texas; it was obviously a weakness of his comparatively but some conservative (perhaps conservative religious) black people did support him. I think that marks him as a different style of candidate than one that virtually no black people support.

.... I mean, I wouldn’t vote for him because I don’t see him making things better, but I don’t think—with the possible exception or two— that he made things worse. Even the things he did poorly (foreign policy) were old patterns; America had been a military spender for a long time; it’s not like he cooked it all up from scratch.

.... At the time, everything seemed new. “Anti-terrorism”. But a lot of Americans don’t trust each other, and the police naturally have some role in preventing people from destroying each other and starting a civil war, which at least did not happen during 2001-2009. There’s more division now, perhaps, but the roots of it can be traced back to historical times, and a past that people still disagree about— it didn’t all start in the age of Twitter.


The Bush sort of president is far less crude than your average right-wing internet hater.


It might have benefited from being more chronological, as it's not really a book of theory, but narrative.


He may have been right about stem cells.

I mean, I support abortion rights because I think some people lack sympathy for girls who get “in trouble”, as they used to say. The whole thing just seems like a way to connive them out of a career.

But to just use human tissues as a resource to be exploited does seem like an extreme position, on a slippery slope to “Brave New World”, and I know that Aldous Huxley was not a stupid man.... I don’t really support this idea of amoral science that’s going to compromise our values, make us feel like anything can be bought. [It’s a scientist’s idle desire for power.]


He had a difficult job to do after the attack.


He did what appeared right, but without realizing that for an American president to go to war requires far less courage than to disappoint those who thought it obviously right for foreigners to die.

.... I just don’t think that it was top-down, with the president or some advisor discovering some threat and then telling other people who went along. I think it was bottom-up, with common people who wanted blood, and the president or whoever scrambling to keep up.

It’s not just politics; that’s just the surface. It’s culture. And it’s not a culture of peace, relatively few cultures are, but certainly not such a young culture as this one.

Among the working class, opinion is still mostly male, mostly conservative and mostly fearful, fear covered by anger, of course, because that’s easier. The only even noticeable alternative is mostly a desire for comfort, for wealth, and even that tendency is a little ashamed of itself, and when the wars start everyone just tries to keep up with the cowboys.

It’s not a war of principles, if there is such a thing. You can’t explain it to a monk. It’s pride. “My honor has been slighted; only blood can make it right.” “Gee wiz cowboy, that sounds terrible. On TV, can’t I talk about freedom instead?”


“We don’t want to put captured terrorists on trial like civilians because they’re not really civilians.”
“So you’ll follow the prisoner of war rules.”
“War? Rules? Well, it’s not *really* a war.”
“So what are they?”
“They’re people who would mistreat us if they had the chance.”
“But you wouldn’t mistreat them; you want justice.”
“Are there rules to justice? I don’t know. But I know I have the moral high ground.”
“Because you’re an American.”
“Land of the free.”
“And you’re fighting a war.”
“Right, but they’re not soldiers.”
“Nor civilians.”
“They’re the trolls who live in the swamp.”
“And we’re gonna drain the swamp, praise Jesus!”


The decision to go into Afganistan was reasonable, despite the risks, although I do think that Bush underestimated his task there by relegating it quickly to secondary status compared to Iraq, because you just don’t transform a place like Afganistan overnight. Even a decade or two in Afghanistan is a short time, winning a battle or two is nothing.


There was some fuzzy thinking in the Bush White House. I wouldn’t say that there was the fear and loathing of Trump, but there was fuzzy thinking. “Here’s this thing; it’s great; did we plan it No; will it Solve All Problems: Yes!”


I don’t think that Bush intentionally lied or that every criticism of him is equally just. But I do think that he had some fuzzy, self-deceptive thinking. Basically, “Iraq would be better off if America invaded.... therefore, Iraq is a threat, and America Must invade!”

Invading Iraq wasn’t exactly a vengeance strike, either, despite the fact that Saddam wasn’t behind 9/11 but the US invaded in a decidedly post-9/11 atmosphere when almost everybody in Washington was afraid of terrorism and afraid of looking weak. America had to prove it wasn’t weak; it had to do something great and grand, and Iraq is an important player in the Middle East, while Afghanistan is mostly in the backwoods.

It is true that in light of these grand Middle Eastern narratives Bush granted citizenship to soldiers of Mexican and other foreign national origin, while for Trump, for whom race stands in the forefront, there’s no way that filthy blood can earn anything, not even through the army.

But not having a strategy to avoid civil war after deposing a sectarian regime and sectarian privilege is just lazy. Intellectually lazy. Got-through-school-because-I’m-rich-and-connected-not-because-I-had-to-study lazy. And if Bush wasn’t seeking blood, what he was seeking was flattery, commander’s flattery, war flattery. You go to war, you marshal the troops and they give you their war yell, you’re a hero; it goes to your head. It doesn’t work equally well everywhere, but it works in Texas, and in the army. Although it’s ultimately them who pick up the tab for the president’s fancy night out.


It’s hard not to overreact.


His education policy was probably okay.


Most of the time a single administration doesn’t cause a landslide change in domestic policy.


While I don’t really agree with this attitude, I think that the militarism of the Bush administration abroad made Democrats perceive everything he did as an attack, even when he was just throwing out ideas for something important like Social Security that seriously needs some long-term thought.

I also think America got way too excited over 9/11, in general. It wounded our pride as the invulnerable superpower, but we really let it divide us.

People are way too eager to have enemies.


He was not a great president.


Heathcliff in love.


The reason why nobody saw the compassionate Bush is that he put up the front of being the tough guy. That’s what he let people see.


I can’t admit that I made a mistake, and, in the name of all the people I’ve gotten killed, I forbid you to tell them.

.... Because if you’re not a cowboy, you’re not an American.

.... Golly if a few more people die, I’ll never have to admit I was wrong.


I feel a little conflicted reading the book, because my goal is to be more tolerant of conservatives, but the book doesn’t make me more of a conservative—quite the opposite.

Bush at his worst is quite arrogant, I can’t avoid that. But everyone inevitably acts out their patterns, regardless of how visible they are internationally.


I get irritated; it passes.


The Israeli cause is sympathetic.

Freedom in the world in general is a big sell, although I suppose it’s better than anti-communism (or Trumpist nationalism).


If he hadn’t invaded Iraq, he could have talked about freedom without it sounding like some kind of euphemism; that was the ultimate price he paid for the military adventure— the values price.


On the one hand he was a bad president; on the other hand, he wasn’t radically different from other presidents.

And we don’t need a civil war right now— as fun as that would be, for the first few hours (of the movie).
  smallself | Oct 16, 2018 |
I read this book years ago when it first came out. Bush was my Commander in Chief. He was elected shortly before I shipped to basic training and the bulk of my military career was under his leadership. I had always given him the benefit of the doubt and I firmly believed him to be doing what he genuinely thought best for the country.

This book gives a peek into the backroom conversations and the thought processes which went into the visible actions of his presidency. The stories frequently come across as a defense of his actions, though they never sound like excuses.

I was left with a reaffirmed belief in his genuineness and a new appreciation for the depth of his leadership and the frequency with which he took the high road and fell on his sword even when there was plenty of blame to go around.

I think this is a good read for anyone who wants some insight into 9/11 and the immediate aftermath, and if you take this work at face value, I think you will have an added appreciation for the challenges faced by whomever is in the highest office in the land. ( )
  McCarthys | Aug 22, 2018 |
I was not a supporter of President Bush when he was in office, but I never had the hatred towards him that many of my friends did. I always respected the man and just disagreed with his politics and decisions. I wanted to read this book to both get a good look at his thought process when he made the big decisions of his presidency, and to live through the history of my 20s again.

I came away from the book with a few thoughts. First, I have more respect for Bush the man after reading this book. I thought he was genuine and a man who tried his best to make the right decisions and live of life of faith. Second, I still disagree with his decisions, but I respect that he was fully committed to them. Third, I have more of an impression now that he was more in command of the decisions of his presidency than I thought he was. I could be wrong and simply biased fresh off the read, but that is what I took from it.

Finally - and the reason I rate this three stars - I felt that the stories told were only skimming the surface. I wanted to go in-depth and behind the scenes through the events he described, and I felt like he consistently gave a simple explanation of what was going on. He rarely (if ever) criticized his advisors, and while I personally don't blame him for that, I was looking for more in a presidential memoir. I felt that he could have been critical without throwing any of his advisors under the bus, but he choice to take the high road every time.
( )
1 vote msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
I really enjoyed reading this book. This was the first president I was old enough to vote for. Media was very limited and mostly just the news on TV. This book told about the decisions he had to make, his thoughts and feelings behind them. I never knew so much went on in his terms, if not for this book. He put a lot of thought into everything he did and put so much into each day. This book would be great to use in a government or history class. You could use examples from it as you teach from the time in history. ( )
  AmandaMcClure | Apr 19, 2017 |
An intriguing look at the controversial presidency of George W. Bush. The forty-third president of the United States writes candidly about the high and low points of his presidency, and also of the events that led him to make the decisions he made. Described within its pages are the war in Iraq, the financial crisis, the tragic day of September 11, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Bush speaks honestly about his failings, yet defends his decisions based on information available at the time. It's a good book for any student of US presidential history, Republican AND Democrat. ( )
  briandrewz | Feb 9, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (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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To the loves of my life: Laura, Barbara, and Jenna
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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)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Decision Points is the extraordinary memoir of America's 43rd president. Shattering the conventions of political autobiography, George W. Bush offers a strikingly candid journey through the defining decisions of his life while writing honestly and directly about his flaws and mistakes, as well as his accomplishments.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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