Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bush's "Decision Points": in Defense of a Presidency

Love him or hate him, President George W. Bush's memoirs have an important place in the historical record and are a must-read for those who wish to understand the tumultuous past decade of American history.

Decision Points is best understood as President Bush's defense of his presidency. Bush obviously writes it from a biased, self-interested viewpoint. This is not an objective narrative, but that hardly renders it immaterial. Critics have made strong arguments against his presidency; this is President Bush's rebuttal.

I am pleased to say that I walked away with a superior understanding of some of the decisions he made. For example, I was surprised to learn that Bush attempted to convince Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco to concede control of the Hurricane Katrina response in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but Blanco adamantly refused to do so. Similarly, I had never really considered that Bush's decision not to immediately visit the Katrina disaster zone was due to the fact that emergency responders did not want him there, since his presence would divert resources from the response.

I was also fascinated by the behind-the-scenes look at his time in office. His narrative of the hours following the Sept. 11 attacks was insightful and dramatic, and his account of the various Iraq deliberations was also interesting. The details of his secret Thanksgiving trip to Baghdad following the invasion are quite riveting.

Of course, the book does not lack flaws. I looked forward to his thoughts on the Valerie Plame incident, but no mention was made. He also tried to defend his credentials as a fiscal conservative which is, well, an argument that he just can't win. Similarly, his defense of his Medicare expansion made me want to bang my head into the wall.

Despite these flaws, I really do classify the book as a must-read for anyone seeking a better understanding of the Bush presidency. You don't need to take his word as Gospel truth, but it certainly is worth more than a grain of salt.

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