Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Decision Points: George W. Bush, January 10—15, 2015
My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊
The memoirs of George W. Bush are arranged thematically rather than chronologically, with each chapter devoted to a particular topic such as stem cell research, the financial crisis and, of course, 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In each, he discusses his “decision points”. The running theme is very much a walk through of Bush’s thought process and explaining why he took the decisions he did. Refreshingly, these are explanations and not justifications. Bush candidly asserts some decisions were right, others wrong and many will be judged by history.
Love him or hate him, the 43rd President of the USA was in office during some of the most defining moments of the country’s recent history. It is fascinating to read his own account of those days. Bush talks in very emotive language and frequently talks about his duty as president to, to coin a phrase, serve and protect. He talks about not wishing to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors and the responsibility of stewardship.
Perhaps what Decision Points does best is capture Bush’s personality. Writing conversationally, Bush comes across as warm and, when possible, jovial. He also seems highly principled and often alludes to having integrity, determination and a willingness to make the right, rather than popular, decisions. Most surprising for me is the degree to which Bush’s faith influenced his life and presidency. It’s affirming to see him discuss it so openly.
What Decision Points doesn’t offer is any particular insight into the party politics of Bush’s presidency. When he refers to his team it is often to simply call them invaluable or wonderful, but rarely to provide any detail on White House or wider American politics. No character besides Bush himself is given much personality. That in itself is not a criticism, so long as you’re not hoping for it. This memoir is very much an emotive retelling of key events with the rough detail you could find impersonally on most news websites.
Having said that, there was a little more exposition surrounding the UN and NATO discussions, particularly around the crucial 2001-2003 period. The delicacy of international politics is well relayed. What was especially interesting for me as a UK reader were the fleeting appearances from then-Prime Minister Tony Blair. Though brief, to read the thoughts of another world leader on our Premiere was a rare treat; it was much as you would expect.
Ultimately, your enjoyment of Decision Points will be determined by your interest in each of the chapters. Those looking for a straightforward account with some commentary on the President’s reasoning will be delighted; those hoping for new information or a behind-closed-doors look at Stateside politics will not. Love him or hate him, these are Bush’s decisions.