Friday, February 11, 2011

BOOK REPORT: Decision Points

Just finished reading President Bush's memoir, Decision Points. I've read Bob Woodward's four books on Bush's time in office (Bush at War, Plan of Attack, State of Denial, and The War Within) and it is those books that form the foundation of my opinion on our 43rd president. But we must recognize that even the best book -- no matter how well-researched or even-handed -- is one man's interpretation of the facts. It was with that in mind that I picked up Decision Points. I wanted to know what President Bush really thought on certain subjects. I knew what the pundits had said, I remember how I felt on certain topics, but what actually led the president to make the decisions he made?

This memoir is (refreshingly) not written chronologically. Instead, each chapter is dedicated to a particular topic or "decision point." He then explores the subject, what led to it, what decision he made, and what the ramifications of that decision was.

The book is incredibly well-written and is at times thrilling. The chapter in which the president recounts September 11th reads better than any fiction you might pick up. I sped through that chapter, unable to put it down. There were always (and will always) be certain gaps in the timeline of events from that day, but to read where he was, what he did, and what thoughts were flying through his head, all while the fog of war crept in, was -- as I said -- absolutely thrilling.

His chapter on stem cell research was especially poignant. Bush became such a whipping boy by the media that it was refreshing and touching to see how incredibly sensitive he was on the topic. As I read it, I couldn't help but think of The Skin Gun and the man recently cured of AIDS. Stem cell research is clearly effecting and changing medical science and I appreciated the steps the president took in furthering research. While I would be okay with an even more open door policy on the subject, I appreciated that he didn't put the kibosh on it as some would have had him do.

If you've ever listened to him speak, it should come as no surprise that he bases many of his decisions on, as he puts it, "his gut." Throughout the book, we see that his initial gut instinct ends up being the final decision he makes. It was because of his gut we invaded Iraq without first completing our mission in Afghanistan. Sometimes, as he discusses this, he comes off a little defensive, but ultimately, he stands by every decision he made.

What I found most interesting about this book is that it meshes completely with Bob Woodward's account. There is no dissonance. This book works wonderfully as an unofficial epilogue to those books. And I would recommend anyone who's even slightly interested on the topic to make it a point to read these five books. They are good, easy reads that will challenge your view on American politics.

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