Book Review: “Decision Points” by George W. Bush

In his memoir, George W. Bush described in details on how he reached the critical decisions facing him in his early life and during his presidency. By understanding how he reached his decisions, one can determine his value and belief systems, therefore decide for himself/herself whether President Bush has done his job to the fullest of his capability. I must say I like him a lot more now than when he was the president. One can tell a lot from this book his candidness about his mistakes/alcoholism, owning up to the responsibilities, his love of his family and God, and most of all, the love of this country. It was a tough eight-year presidency by any stretch of imagination: the 9/11, Iraq/Afghanistan war, subprime mortgage financial meltdown, Katrina flood, and other difficult circumstances facing a President. One thing that worries me is his religious faith in God and Christianity – a bit too extreme for me to be a President. At least, he shows respect for others’ belief and does not impose his religious belief on others. If there is one word describing George W. Bush is his “classiness,” a compliment for a politician. I don’t think I would say that about him during his presidency.

1. Quitting: This is about his growing up in Texas, getting educated in Harvard and getting married having the twin girls. Mostly, it’s about his battle with alcohol.
2. Running: This quote about summed it up, “I probably became the first person to learn that he had won the presidency while lying in bed with his wife watching TV.”
3. Personnel: Selecting the right persons to serve the administration and the Supreme Court Justices.
4. Stem Cells: the baby’s right (morality) vs. the medicinal need (science). You can tell that Bush’s moral standard is deeply rooted in the Christian religion. This is all but a moot point as ways have been found to avoid using the frozen embryos.
5. Day of Fire (9/11): The chaos that happened during the day of September 11, 2001, highlighted the difficult situation of being a US president. That is what leadership is made of. These quote summed up the day for Bush, “A day that started with a run on a golf course had ended with a scramble to the bunker to escape a possible attack on the White House.” “September 11 redefined sacrifice. It redefined duty. And it redefined my job. The story of that week is the key to understanding my presidency.”
6. War Footing: ” The terrorists had made our homefront a battleground. Putting America on a war footing was one of the most important decisions of my presidency.”
7. Afghanistan: This was how he reached the decision to “fight the war on terror on the offense, and the first battlefront would be Afghanistan.”
8. Iraq: Liberating Iraq was a controversial topic. Bush was on a mission to liberate countries after Afghanistan. It’s not clear to me if Bush had done sufficient homework to call Saddam bluff. But historian may come back and decide that this decision may have contributed to planting the seeds of the democracy in the Middle East. I don’t like what it has done to the US economy and reputation but it just might needs to be done after all.
9. Leading: One of the lessons I took from Roosevelt and Reagan was to lead the public, not chase the opinion polls. I decided to push for sweeping reforms, not tinker with the status quo. As I told my advisers, “I didn’t take this job to play small ball.” Bush touched on the two major accomplishments of his administrations: No Child Left Behind and Medicare Modernization. Two failed initiatives: faith-based initiative, social security and immigration reform.
10. Katrina: This was a disaster poorly handled at the local level and the recovery poorly executed at the state and federal level. Bush took the blade and got the job done.
11. Lazarus Effect: Bush touted his accomplishment on the initiative to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. Bush cited hist justification, “Our national security was tied directly to human suffering. Societies mired in poverty and disease foster hopelessness. And hopelessness leaves people ripe for recruitment by terrorists and extremists. By confronting suffering in places like Africa, America would strengthen its security and collective soul.”
12: Surge (of troop to Iraq): This was the unpopular decision to boost the number of troops to Iraq to counter the insurgents’ attack. More details about the Iraq war were contained in this chapter.
13: Freedom Agenda: This is the 4th prong of his strategies to protect the country, known as the Bush Doctrine. It’s a noble goal to spread freedom and democracy all over the world. The turkey in the middle of car trail in Bush’s ranch was an interesting “omen” story that might have saved the peace effort in Middle East. He touched on many countries’ state of democracy: Palestinians, Lebanon, Iran, North Korea, China, Romania, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia, and Abu Dhabi.
14. Financial Crisis: This is the subprime mortgage meltdown and the demises of the automakers at the end of Bush’s administration when he had his hands full with Iraq. I don’t think there was much Bush could have done as Federal Reserve was more to blame. By Bush’s account, “The nature of the presidency is that sometimes you don’t choose which challenges come to your desk. You do decide how to respond.” On the other hand, this disaster impacts the American people the most. At the end, he said, “As I looked into the tired faces of the men and women of my economic team, I thought about all my administration had been through. Every day for eight years, we had done our best. We had given the job our all. And through every trial, we had been honored to serve the nation we love.”