Points provides refreshing insight

George Bush summarizes his own life journey as “one interesting ride.” The man was at the forefront in the decade of most Tech students’ formative years. His autobiography Decision Points provides a front-row perspective into some of the most controversial and crucial parts of his presidency.
This is not a policy report. After all, as the key decider in most of his administration’s policies, it is only natural for him to unhesitatingly defend all of his achievements and alleged shortcomings. What one can expect instead is a look into the human side of these decisions and the factors that gave rise to them in the first place.
The earlier part of the book focuses on his life before politics. He comes off as a likable child and teenager; someone who means well yet has a desire for excitement. He’s an outsider from a rich Eastern political family who just wants to fit in with his friends.
By far the most interesting part of this book is his view on the individuals who worked under him. One really gains a sense of the camaraderie between the individuals of the White House. The controversial Dick Cheney comes off as a sort of blood brother to his president. The strength of their bond is one of the most enduring parts of Bush’s two terms.
Bush also attempts to bust the notion that Cheney was some kind of puppet master in the White House, stating that the man even tried to tender his resignation before the second election until Bush convinced him otherwise. One of the most trying times of their partnership is the Scooter Libby trial in which Bush refuses to fully pardon Libby, Cheney’s Chief of Staff.
The book also shows the closeness of his relationships with other members of his administration. Particularly noteworthy is the rivalry between the diplomats of the State Department and the officials of the Defense Department.
These types of social circumstances, however silly they may seem, are often key factors in the problems and successes of the executive branch.
One will not find much criticism of White House officials in this book, though. Figures like Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell are all portrayed as honorable statesmen, and any of their potential lapses in judgment are defended or not mentioned. His admiration for the “mad-scientist” genius of Karl Rove is especially entertaining.
Bush attempts to give a balanced portrait of the key policy decisions of his day. He does a good job at portraying himself as a moderate trying to build consensus. He casts many of his decisions as compromises between the left and the harder conservative factions of his own party.
Obviously as with any autobiography there’s no alternate side in this book, so how much truth-value one gains from this ought to be taken with slight skepticism. His major foreign-policy decisions and national security moves after 9/11 are portrayed with one simple metric: defend American lives. His most steadfast defense of all the criticisms, and his best one, is that he had to make a split-decision.
Indeed, the focus of this book is that the President makes these decisions with very little certainty and the fate of the nation and world at stake. Many of these decisions also focus on partisanship and gridlock as well as Bush’s occasionally adversarial relationship with the media.
This book will not change your opinion on how much you love or hate the Bush administration. It will, however, give you a greater appreciation for the trials and tribulations faced by any President.
Bush encapsulates his presidency in the book with a quote: “After the nightmare of 9/11, America went seven and a half years without another successful terrorist attack on our soil. If I had to summarize my most meaningful accomplishment as president in one sentence, that would be it.”


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