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Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House Hardcover – October 22, 2013
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*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
Top customer reviews
Peter Baker has shattered that image.
This book is an outstanding first draft of the history of the George W. Bush presidency. It is well-researched, even in tone, and surprisingly balanced. I say "surprisingly" because even today, nearly seven years after he left the White House, the Bush presidency is one of courage and leadership wrapped in a ribbon of conflict and contradictions.
I strongly recommend this book as a starting point for anyone interested in a strong, balanced, and fair single-volume history of a consequential presidency.
It is worth noting that Baker frequently had to attempt to reconcile varying accounts of the debates within the Bush White House. Baker seems to have done this quite well. The debates on the best way to proceed in Iraq were particularly intense. The insight into the refusal to pardon Scooter Libby and its effect on the Bush Cheney relationship is profound.
Baker is a superb writer and his style fully engages the reader. Besides examining events, themes, personalities, successes, and failures of Bush Administrations, Baker provides an almost intimate look at the President’s daily life. The seemingly small asides and recounting of what it was like to be president then provide a remarkable insight into the flaws AND the humanity of the characters involved. This book will remain a basic reference for the Bush Presidency for some time to come.
in my opinion, Peter Baker may be the finest writer with a journalism background since Stanley Karnow.
The research is amazing, Baker's writing is "down-to-earth" and easily understood, and it is about time Americans stop second-guessing this administration and face facts; those years were difficult for our country. As in every administration, there are consequences and we will be dealing with Bush/Cheney decisions for years to come, like it or not. Reading this book will encourage you to stop and think about these decisions and why/how they were made and why you disagree, or agree. If you were the President or a member of the cabinet, what would you have done under the circumstances that were behind major decisions?
Baker carefully uses statements by others, including both Bush and Cheney to prove his points. There are plenty of surprises in the book; plenty of information to inspire conversations among the readers, and plenty of questions for Mr. Baker. We will never know why Bush refused to pardon Scooter Libby; why he didn't remove Donald Rumsfeld earlier or why Karl Rove had such an influence on him. The admirable qualities of both Bush and Cheney are addressed by Peter Baker as well as their respectful disagreements. Both these men certainly have regrets over situations during their 8 years in office they could not or did not control.
Press coverage was most always negative after the Iraq war - nothing the administration did was right in the eyes of many - if you take time to read this fascinating book (and others) you may understand the confusion taking place among our nation's leaders after 9/11.You may also become bewildered at all the agencies involved in running the country - so many people with little experience in governing, so many mistakes by staffers due to rules and regulations, so many politicians in the Congress and Senate only interested in their personal welfare, and such needless confrontations by those who know very little. Does this sound like history repeating itself?
There are plenty of good decisions and good results from the Bush/Cheney years and they are discussed in the book. As Bush stated "History will be the judge of his administration", and he is correct. Peter Baker has done an excellent job covering the life stories of these two men, how they interacted during the presidency, and why the second term was different from the first term.
Thank you for reading this review by an independent voter, avid reader, and senior citizen.
Most recent customer reviews
I just finished reading Peter Baker’s “Days of Fire,” the authoritative...Read more