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Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House Hardcover – October 22, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 816 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 2nd Printing edition (October 22, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385525184
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385525183
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (204 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Baker, the senior White House correspondent for the New York Times, has written an ambitious, engrossing, and often disturbing study of the inner workings, conflicts, and critical policy decisions made during the eight years of Bush and Cheney governance. It is no accident that Baker consistently refers to Bush-Cheney, since Cheney was undoubtedly the most influential and powerful vice president in recent years. Baker’s portrait of him is not flattering. Cheney prided himself as a hard-nosed “tough guy,” to the point of ruthlessness. He fought constantly with other cabinet members, showing little respect or tolerance for their views. He was a conservative true believer with a tendency to ignore facts that got in the way of his view of reality. By the end of their eight years together, even Bush stopped listening to him. Bush is a more sympathetic figure, and Baker sees him as a man trapped by events, whose hopes for a more “modest” foreign policy and a “compassionate conservatism” domestic affairs were frustrated by the vast shadows cast by 9/11. This is a superbly researched, masterful account of eight critical, history-changing years. --Jay Freeman


Praise for Days of Fire

“Filled with enlivening detail and judicious analysis, Days of Fire is the most reliable, comprehensive history of the Bush years yet.”—Jim Kelly, The New York Times

“Mr. Baker, a White House reporter for the New York Times, has pulled off something of a journalistic miracle: He has written a thorough, engaging and fair history on the Bush-Cheney White House, the most polarizing presidency since Johnson's (Andrew, not Lyndon), with the possible exception of the current one.”—Jonathan Karl, The Wall Street Journal

"The story of those eight years would seem far too vast to contain inside a single volume. Yet here that volume is. Peter Baker neither accuses nor excuses. He writes with a measure and balance that seem transported backward in time from some more dispassionate future."—David Frum, New York Times Book Review

“A fine new book about [Bush’s] time in office … The Bush-Cheney era weighs heavily on America. Its divisions and disappointments help to explain much about today’s politics, from public war-weariness to the anti-establishment contempt that seethes among the Republican grassroots and the Tea Party. Insiders have already penned enough don’t-blame-me memoirs and score-settling biographies to dam the Potomac. Mr. Baker concentrates on relations between the two men at the top of the executive branch. His shrewd, meticulous reporting offers a useful corrective to tales of a puppet-master deputy manipulating an inexperienced boss.”—The Economist

“Peter Baker, the intrepid New York Times reporter lately covering his third president of the United States, has achieved the unthinkable—a vivid page-turner on the ultimately divided not-co-presidency of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.”—W. Gardner Selby, Austin American-Statesman

“In producing the first comprehensive narrative history of what will surely remain one of the most controversial presidential administrations in U.S. history, Baker has done yeoman’s service. All subsequent writers dealing with the subject will find his book indispensible … Baker’s conclusion, which will almost certainly stand the test of time, is that Bush is his own man and was responsible for the decisions made in his name.”—Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs 
“Baker offers clear-eyed perspective on the fateful decisions of a decade ago … [A] kaleidoscopic, behind-the-scenes narrative.”—Michael O’Donnell, The Christian Science Monitor
“Magisterial … Baker has done a tremendous job of knitting together the disparate strains of a complex and multilayered narrative. For all its density, the book proceeds at a beach-read velocity that makes it a pleasure to peruse. Especially enjoyable is Baker’s commendable urge to puncture many of the easy myths that still surround the Bush years. Anyone who reads it will come away from this account with their understanding of the period greatly increased—which, after all, is just what a history like this is supposed to accomplish … [A] remarkable achievement.”—Christian Caryl, The National Interest

“A magisterial study of the way [Bush and Cheney] influenced each other, waxing and then waning, during the fateful eight-year presidency of George W. Bush.”—Jamie Stiehm, US News

“[Days of Fire] is steeped in facts, and the writing is clear and crisp. You will also be impressed by Baker’s research and reporting … All told, Days of Fire delves deeply into the Bush-Cheney partnership and offers breathtaking insights into power, passion and politics at the highest levels of our government.”—BookPage

"The complex partnership of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney undergirds this authoritative narrative of their tumultuous eight years in Washington. Baker, the senior White House correspondent for New York Times, skillfully navigates how Bush, a national security neophyte, came to rely heavily on the former Wyoming congressman and secretary of defense, a consummate Washington insider. Although Cheney became one of the most influential vice presidents in American history and grew to relish his Darth Vader reputation, Baker upends the popular perception that Bush did his bidding … Baker delivers a fast-paced read that deftly weaves the trials and tribulations of the Bush presidency into a monumental tale of hubris and missed opportunities for greatness."Publishers Weekly, starred review
"A thorough, objective and surprisingly positive examination of the Bush-Cheney years. Written as though it has the perspective of a century's distance on the events of the last decade, New York Times senior White House correspondent Baker dispatches false and puerile memes—Bush stole Florida, blood for oil, Bush lied and kids died, etc.—to the dustbin of history as he delivers "the most documented history of the Bush-Cheney White House to date." The author is no Bush cheerleader; he shines a pitiless light on the failures of judgment, erroneous intelligence and excessive reliance on subordinates that led to the debacle in Iraq, which undid Bush's second term. Baker concludes that Bush "was at his best when he was cleaning up his worst." The author shows how it all went wrong, however, without a hint of partisan rancor. This briskly written but exhaustively detailed account defies expectations by portraying an administration of intelligent, patriotic adults with necessarily limited information striving to do what they believed was best for the nation in a dangerous era, with real but overlooked achievements. The president, in particular, appears as a man of decency who retained his optimism and dedication to principle as his polls declined to record lows and political allies fled. In delineating the businesslike relationship between Bush and Cheney, Baker refutes the popular notion that Cheney was the dominant figure, though Bush relied heavily on his experience during his first term … A major contribution to the rehabilitation of our 43rd president."Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"An ambitious, engrossing, and often disturbing study of the inner workings, conflicts, and critical policy decisions made during the eight years of Bush and Cheney governance … This is a superbly researched, masterful account of eight critical, history-changing years."Booklist, starred review

"Peter Baker's superb biography of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney will stand as the most complete and balanced discussion of the men and their administration for decades. Until the Bush library opens the wealth of papers that will expand our knowledge of their White House, we will be indebted to Baker for his brilliant reconstruction of this presidency. No one has drawn the complicated Bush-Cheney relationship more convincingly than Baker. Anyone eager to understand our current dilemmas does well to read this book."—Robert Dallek, author of Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power 

"Peter Baker tells the story of Bush and Cheney with the precision of a crack reporter and the eye and ear of a novelist. This is perhaps the most consequential pairing of a president and vice president in our history. And Baker captures it all—the triumphs and defeats, the partnership and eventual estrangement. It is a splendid mix of sweeping history and telling anecdotes that will keep you turning the page."—Chris Wallace, anchor of Fox News Sunday
"It turns out George W. Bush was no puppet, and Dick Cheney no puppet master. Days of Fire takes us inside a relationship that came to define American conflict, peace, and politics. Forget everything else you've read. This excellent book tells us what really happened, from the mouths of the players themselves, and explains why, more than a decade after 9/11, we are still a nation at war."—Gwen Ifill, coanchor of PBS Newshour

"9/11, two long wars, a crushing recession, neo-cons, and turf wars defined the first decade of twenty-first-century American politics. In the middle of it all, the president and his powerful vice-president. The complicated and then contentious relationship between Bush and Cheney is worthy of Shakespeare. Peter Baker’s Days of Fire is a book for every presidential hopeful and every citizen."—Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation

"Without ever surrendering his critical detachment—this book is no valentine—Baker humanizes the leader whose post-Reagan agenda was hijacked by foreign terrorists and Wall Street crooks. You may or may not agree with George W. Bush's actions as president, but by the time you put Days of Fire down, you will understand them, and him, as never before."—Richard Norton Smith, author of Thomas E. Dewey and His Times

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Customer Reviews

This is the definitive and objective account of the George W. Bush Administration.
Benjamin Tomchik
You may hate or love him but once you read Days of Fire you'll understand his actions and get to know him better as a person.
the GreatReads!
I thought this book provided fresh insight into a very consequential period of time.
Brad Stein

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Rule 62 Ken on December 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Books about the Presidency of George W. Bush generally tend to go in two directions: the more common Bush bashfests, or the less common "Bush was right" tomes. New York Times Chief White House correspondent Peter Baker opts for a more objective analysis of both the Bush Presidency and of Bush the President, and in doing so writes a most interesting accounting of both. Baker's retelling has an added dimension that has never been as carefully considered: the complicated relationship between George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. In doing all of this, Baker dispels several myths and misconceptions and gives the reader a fresh perspective that differs from the George W. Bush seen in the 24 hour news cycles of the last decade.

The first part of the book seems repetitive of stories that have been told before: the controversial 2001 election, the September 11th attacks and the build-up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some readers may think, "Bob Woodward has already written about all of this." But much of Baker's focus is on the relationship between Bush and Cheney, and to a lesser extent, Bush and Karl Rove. Baker demonstrates how, in the early stages of his presidency, Bush relied on Cheney (and to a lesser extent on Rove) for guidance, and how Bush grew in the job to the point where Cheney was relegated almost to the point of irrelevance. According to Baker, stories about Cheney being the puppet-master have no validity.
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111 of 130 people found the following review helpful By the GreatReads! TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House by Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, who has an eye and ear on the many goings-on during the Bush administration, is no child's play. A tome of over 800 pages, it is an arduous journey through the turbulent eight years of the Bush presidency, and it is a book which many readers may not read through to the end unless they are staunch supporters or strong critics.

However, this assumption is not based on content but merely on the length of the book. Content is far more fascinating and riveting than most people have painted of the Bush administration. Days of Fire explores their tumultuous relationship, compelling decisions that drive the presidency, the agenda thrust upon them by September 11 terrorist attack and many other aspects.

George Walker Bush was a president many chose to hate. "Mission Accomplished!" will never be erased from memory. But Baker has painted a picture of a presidency whose agenda was hijacked by circumstances that were beyond his control. You may hate or love him but once you read Days of Fire you'll understand his actions and get to know him better as a person. But this book is not just about Bush it is also about Richard Bruce Cheney. And together, they formed a partnership whose decisions impacted American way of life even today.
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61 of 71 people found the following review helpful By D. Rediker on October 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Baker has taken a complicated interpersonal and political relationship and framed a narrative of a consequential presidency around it. The book reads beautifully and is a truly captivating read. It is rare that an author can write a book this comprehensive about a subject so fraught with political pitfalls and, in the end, the reader cannot tell whether Baker has any personal political slant. This is a must read whether you liked or disliked the Bush-Cheney administration.
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful By FictionFan TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
For those of us on this side of the Atlantic, US politics has only a marginal relevance in normal times, especially since the end of the Cold War. But following the atrocity of 9/11, Bush was suddenly thrust on to the world stage in a way he had not anticipated and overnight his pronouncements and actions became as important over here as those of our own leaders – especially since Blair instantly committed the UK to go along with the US wherever Bush might lead them. As a result, the Bush presidency is to me the most interesting of modern times.

In this book, Peter Baker, the Chief White House Correspondent of the New York Times, sets out to examine the relationship between Bush and Vice-President Cheney – an unusual relationship from the start since Cheney made it clear that he had no intention to run for the presidency at any point in the future. The received wisdom back in the early years was that Bush was a bumbling buffoon riding on his father’s achievements; and that Cheney, one of his father’s henchmen, was the power behind the throne – a shadowy and rather machiavellian figure – the puppet-master. Baker’s position is that Cheney’s influence was strong in the early years and that his support after 9/11 was crucial, but that ultimately Bush was his own man even then, and that Cheney’s influence gradually waned as time passed.

Baker’s account is very heavily weighted towards foreign affairs and the 'war on terror', particularly Iraq, presumably because this is the area in which Cheney was most involved. Although domestic policies are discussed from time to time, the coverage of them is nothing like as detailed or insightful.
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