on November 26, 2010
So first off I'm pretty left. I didn't buy this book with the intention of hating President Bush. In fact despite the policy problems and the damage to the economy under his administration I don't "hate" him or anyone.
So with that being said I found it nice to gain a personal perspective with a person who is challenged daily with decisions the average person couldn't fathom. What makes this man and his mind work? Why did he make choices that made me so angry? Why did the press constantly berate him regardless of what he did? These things I wanted answers on and I got them in this book.
There are many things that none of us ever hear about and those things were better clarified here. I can understand the challenges the man faced and from a historical perspective I actually feel I've learned a lot about the way the upper ranks of US Government act in the present day. I've seen some comments on here about not telling the truth and whatnot but feel those are from left wing fanatics that just cant open their mind to the truth that a president is a human.
The writing at times is somewhat childish but I'm also happy it's not over the wall in a "Rhodes Scholar" kind of way. It's in a basic story telling format with dips and dives into major events that we all know about by now if we've bothered to buy this book. I'm happy that it's not a bang on the drums Republican story that tries to shove ideals down my throat. In fact it's simply this man sharing what he feels and why he did what he did. I was particularly drawn to the Stem Cell chapter because I followed that closely when it happened and always felt the president was lambasted for the press, the Democratic party, and the bloggers benefit.
This tells me a lot of what I already know about the current political climate and the way people are so polarized. It clears up many lies from the media that I knew were lies as they graced the TV on various channels. It also clarifies the truths that I knew and the reason I didn't vote for him.
Either way it's good to crawl inside the mind of a president for a few hours and understand what makes them tick.
"That is the nature of the presidency. Perceptions are shaped by the clarity of hindsight. In the moment of decision, you don't have that advantage." -G. Bush
In a lot of ways this statement just about sums up the book. The President of the United States, maybe more so than any other person on the face of the Earth, has his/her every decision microscopically analyzed by just about everyone... after the fact, when the results are known and more information is available. I thought this to be a very interesting premise for a presidential memoir. It doesn't come across as an apology nor does it come across as an excuse. President Bush gives you the situation as he saw it and lets you make your own decision.
I am not a huge fan of President Bush, but I don't think he is the utter failure as President that some consider him. I come away with some empathy (though short of being President, I don't think anyone could truly grasp the reality) for President Bush. Could things have been done better... more than likely. Could they have been worse... almost certainly... but how many of us couldn't apply those phrases to our own lives?
If you are a Bush fan, I'd almost guarantee you'll like the book. If you aren't a fan.... you'll probably find some more ammunition to bash him. For myself, I don't at all regret the time spent reading the book and that is usually the measure that I put on literary material.
on November 17, 2010
Most of the reviews here are not of the book but of the President, so typically the reviews are falling along party lines (similar to way too many things these days). It should be possible to review the book as an autobiography and not a political commentary. That said, the book is an interesting reflection by President Bush on his perception of his life and actions. It is not a work of master prose. The President writes like he speaks. The thoughts are straight forward and often simple, but they are his. It is not insightful but it is revealing. If you are looking for insight into the workings of Washington or an assessment of policy, this book is not for you. If you want to read about how President Bush views his life and presidency, the book does a pretty good job of that. It often leaves the reader with questions and certainly does not contain deep reflection (that will take many more years to develop), but it is the George W Bush talking about George W Bush as he sees himself and his presidency today.
The book is written thematically, not chronologically. This is important because it gives the book a much different flavor than one that is written month by month, and year by year. This book was not ghost written. This is his hand and his words, and it comes through on every page - all 512 of them.
I had no expectations when I opened the cover other than to enjoy the book. I found it was written with a wonderful light hand, Bush being a story teller, no question about it. And he pulls no punches, he tells you the real deal and he does not filter it. Other people will write pro and con on this book depending upon their political filters. There will be none of that here. I am only interested in enjoying a book and telling you that you will also or maybe not.
I am going to give you a flavoring of the book and you will know immediately if this is for you:
* In the Presidency there are no do-over's
* Quitting drinking was one of the toughest decisions he ever made
* It wouldn't be the last time the student George Bush slept through a Yale lecture
* He says he had the same personality as his mother. He would needle people to show affection and to make a point. He flares up rapidly. He and his mother both can be real blunt, a trait that gets them into trouble from time to time
* Bush was enormously influenced by a history teacher on crutches at his prep school which was Andover Phillips Academy in Mass. His name was Tom Lyons (crippled by polio), and he nurtured, he hectored, he praised, and demanded a lot. He instilled in George Bush a love of history that remained with him throughout a lifetime.
* Reverend William Sloan Coffin was a contemporary of the president's father, George HW Bush while both were at Yale. When George W. was a student at Yale, his father had just lost his bid to become a Senator from Texas. George W. asked the Reverend to perhaps write a letter to console his father, and the Reverend's former classmate. The Reverend responded, "Your father was beaten by a better man." I don't think the future President ever recovered from the remark.
* Having spent considerable time in Texas over the last couple of decades I thoroughly enjoyed Texas wisdom which the President captures brilliantly in one statement. He refers to some people as "Book smart and sidewalk stupid".
* He sums up his education by telling us that he went to Andover by tradition, Yale by expectation, and Harvard by choice.
* The funniest story in the book is when he is sitting at a dinner party in Kennebunkport with his parents during his heavy alcohol stage, and he says to a contemporary of his parents, so what is sex like after 50. Everyone was aghast at the statement. The future President receives a note after he is elected. The note says, "Well George how is it?"
* What you are looking at here is an absolutely honest, self examination.
* When the President becomes introspective and talks about personnel, his philosophy is that the people who surround you will determine the quality of advice you receive and the way your goals are implemented.
* He mentions meeting with Margaret Thatcher who told him that she usually makes up her mind about a man in 10 seconds, and very rarely changes it.
You cannot write 500 plus pages of biography without revealing yourself. You simply cannot hide it for that long. I do not believe that this President has a bad bone in his body. Did he make mistakes, yes lots of them, and everyone else does too. It's all so easy in hindsight, and so difficult to call them accurately before the event. He takes responsibility, and welcomes history's future judgment of him. This is a man who sleeps at night.
It's all here in 14 chapters, from stem cells, September 11th, Afghanistan, Iraq, Katrina, the Surge, his freedom agenda, and finishing with the financial crisis. You will wind up reading the whole thing, and looking for more. You will be critical, and at the same time consoling, for this was and is, a good man. They may have been errors of judgment, but not of the heart. From the hiring's to the firings, read this book and you will better understand a part of history we all lived through. He holds no punches and tells you what he thinks of the players who were part of his Administration.
And then there's the family, his love of father and mother. Their loving imprint on him, and the child they produced. George Bush is the perfect example of the apple not falling very far from the tree. He is the product of a totally enveloping family where he was not pushed, but gently supported to find his own way. There were stumbles along the way including the decade long battle with alcoholism.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and ask you my fellow reader to come to it with an open mind, with a fresh eye, and try to see if you can capture some fresh thoughts on this very interesting man who has led a very interesting life. In the end it seemed to me that if George Bush was your friend, you didn't need many more friends - you were covered. Thank you for reading this review.
Richard C. Stoyeck
on January 23, 2011
Whatever one may think of General Douglas MacArthur, his farewell address at West Point, delivered on May 12, 1962, must rank as one of the finest speeches ever given by an American. The theme of that speech was Duty, Honor, Country.
Now President George W. Bush has written a book, and the Duty-Honor-Country theme is fitting for that book and its author.
The book is divided into 14 chapters with each discussing a particular issue: 1-Quitting, 2-Running, 3-Personnel, 4-Stem Cells, 5-Day of Fire, 6-War Footing, 7-Afghanistan, 8-Iraq, 9-Leading, 10-Katrina, 11-Lazarus Effect, 12-Surge, 13-Freedom Agenda and 14-Financial Crisis.
Iraq and Katrina might be the two chapters that most will associate with Mr. Bush. For those who do not want to read the entire book, it is advisable to at least read those two chapters. Americans who believe Mr. Bush did not care about Black People (Kanye West) should not say another word on the subject until the believers have read chapter 11, the Lazarus Effect.
In the introduction, Mr. Bush let it be known that he is responsible for any inaccuracies in the book. At the end of the book, in the acknowledgments, Mr. Bush thanked some of those who made the book possible. But he further declared that those individuals are responsible for many of the book's strengths, but none of its flaws.
One might be inclined to think that such display of humility is a mere attempt to sound honorable, but not so in this book. Whatever did not go the way Mr. Bush would have wanted it, he held himself responsible for the failure. Whenever another course of action would have been better than the one taken, Mr. Bush held himself responsible.
Throughout the book, Mr. Bush took every opportunity to praise and to commend those who worked for him and were mentioned in the book. They were often hard working, honest, able or intelligent. Some garnered more than one of the adjectives.
Given the vitriol directed at Mr. Bush during his presidency, you might think that parts of the book would have been devoted to fighting back at some in the Democratic Party, in the media or in interest groups. But rather that resorting to denigrating, Mr. Bush spent time elevating and illuminating. It is my opinion that the above triumvirate cost us lives in the war on terror. If Mr. Bush feels that way, you will not find evidence in this book.
Four stories in the book further reinforced my deep respect for Mr. Bush. After reading the stories that follow, only the most obstinate among us would fail to see the humanity, the honor, the fidelity to duty and the love of country that define President Bush.
On page 162, Mr. Bush laments the fact that he did not fight harder to keep the name he had assigned to what became the PATRIOT ACT. He did not want to leave the impression that those who oppose the law were unpatriotic. How is that for honor?
On page 169, lawyers for the CIA and DOJ came up with a list of interrogation techniques that would be legal and constitutional. Mr. Bush looked at the list and rejected two of the items because he thought they went too far, even though they were legal. A lawless president?
Meeting the families of those who fell in combat sometimes came with verbal attacks against the president. On page 358, the mother of a son who died in Iraq told the president he is as big a terrorist as bin Laden. What was Mr. Bush's response? I quote from the page: "If expressing her anger helped eased her pain, that was fine with me." An uncaring president?
On September 12, 2007 Mr. Bush addressed the nation, and on page 385, he wrote that the most quoted phrase in the speech was "return on success". But the president did not leave it at that. He let it be known that the phrase was suggested by Ed Gillespie. A dishonest president?
Do not judge a book by the cover presented to you. At some point, you need to look inside the book. Please get to know President Bush by making a decision to read Decision Points. You will find that the picture of Mr. Bush, painted over the past eight years by some who opposed him, might more closely resemble the painters than the painted.
on November 14, 2010
I have never been a fan of Bush. In fact I really thought he was the worst president in history. I could not put this book down. He had an extraordinarily hard job, and when he tells of his mindset when making the decisions he made I have to admire him. I truly think that he did what he thought was the rite thing to do on each and every one of his decisions. I can honestly say that I now think that he did a good job.
on December 22, 2010
This book is a joy to read. Regardless of your political point of view, or whether you liked GW as a President, this is an insightful book into the mindset of a President and the thinking behind key decisions. I'm not sure how much of it he actually wrote, but it is written in simple terms, actually sounds like GW, and comes across as sincere and thoughtful.
I've read a lot of political books, and historical references like this one. There are no hidden agendas in this one, no political potshots at his critics or the new administration, just a heartfelt perspective on his thinking.
Looking at the Tag suggestions for this review ... (war criminal, worst president ever, failure, how to ruin your country, true crime, criminal, idiot, lies, george bush). Absolutely disgraceful.
on November 17, 2010
I voted for Bush the first time. I didn't vote for him the second time. I rarely read political books or memoirs, but the way Bush has carried himself after leaving office had me intrigued and gave me a new respect for the man.
I started this book and, at times, got very bogged down with details that this mostly fiction reader doesn't like, but still, I appreciated it and didn't skip anything (as I usually will).
It was a fascinating look into politics, what really goes on behind the scenes, and how truly difficult (as I imagined, but never really new)dealing with a national tragedy was.
Humorous and smart, what I liked about the book was that, after I was done reading it, I felt that President Bush was an ordinary guy who managed to do an extraordinary job with class. Not perfect, not by a long shot, but that he admits his errors and does so, I believe, sincerely.
A truly fascinating book.
on January 10, 2011
I have no idea what anyone else can want, aside from people who are so far removed from nature as to hate Bush for not condemning himself. This was an incredible book, that far exceeded my expectations. This is a great summary of his presidency, and I recommend it to any decent man who wants to study the Bush era. It helped me to clarify the recent past and to remember where we are coming from chronologically. It reminded me of how real the post-9/11 threats really were and it showed me how Bush really thought. Overall, it shows how Bush is essential a republican who believes in multilateralism.
on December 13, 2010
So, before I begin, let me just say this: I live far, far to the left. I am as liberal as liberals come. I believe that George Bush had a huge hand in coming thisclose to bringing this great country to it's knees. I do not agree with his politics. Never have, never will. However, I have found myself empathizing with him (as a person, not a political figure or president) for many years and I also feel like I don't know anything, if I only know one side of the story. So, I decided to give the book a shot. Putting all of my political feelings aside (well, most of them...I'll do my best), here are my thoughts on the book:
The book is very well written. George W. does a fine job at explaining his thought processes for the vast majority of the decisions that he made during his time in office. Not only does he do a good job of expressing his feelings, he is also, at times, incredibly funny. He really does have quite the sense of humor. The more that I read the book, the more I felt that, even though I may not want this man running my country, he probably is the kind of man that I would like to hang out with in my free time. He comes off as very jovial and I like that in a person. It made parts of the book easier to read. Again, I didn't always agree with the decisions that he tells us about, but I appreciate the thought that he put into each one. He really lays it out.
While reading the book, I was under the impression that he had a ghost writer, which left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt like, if you are smart enough to run our country, you should be smart enough to write your own book. However, I see in other reviews that he DID in fact write it himself and I am incredibly impressed by that. He was very well-spoken and, as many have already pointed out, he really is a great story teller. I thought that his description of all the years leading up to the presidency was really great and he really laid it all out there. I was also very impressed by the chapter on stem cell research. Again, I don't agree with him and I don't agree on his reasons why, but I appreciated that he laid out each issue and how it affected his decision. Throughout the book, he really let us as the readers have a better shot at understanding why he did the things that he did.
Another thing that I really loved was that I learned a lot from the book that didn't really have a lot to do with his presidency, persay. I learned a lot about the Middle East that I never knew. And I was reminded of things that happened during his 8 years that I have "conveniently" forgotten (politically, we all tend to forget important things when they don't mesh with our beliefs) and I was actually happy to be reminded of them. I am a political junkie, so I read about stuff like this all day. But, I think this would be a great book for all "everyday" Americans to read, right or left.
There were somethings that I didn't like. I feel like President Bush repeated himself on several issues (mostly pertaining to the war) in several different chapters. But, I didn't feel like he was reiteratting points as much as he was trying to convince the readers that what he was saying was true. Also, towards the end of the book, he seemed to drag things out a bit. I know that it was a lot to say, but it felt too prolonged. I found myself wanting to skip entire paragraphs and, to be honest, it seemed like a chore for me to finish the book.
All in all, I think W. did a pretty good job in writing this book. He was clear and concise and, at times, funny and loveable. When I took my political feelings aside, I realized that I didn't hate the book as much as I thought I would. Come to find out, I don't hate George W. Bush as much as I thought I did...