Bush’s memoir details the decisions that shaped his life and presidency – but fails to open a window into his thinking.
(Page 2 of 3)
He never identifies, let alone questions, his universal application of this “go big or go home” approach. A former pro baseball team owner should know that squads have won World Series titles playing small ball. But like a batter who swung for the fence at every pitch, Bush fondly relives the few homers he hit, vaguely recalls the many times he struck out, and dares not mention the bystanders he injured with foul balls.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
On the few occasions when he does express regret, Bush feels bad that he didn’t swing harder. Reflecting on his handling of hurricane Katrina, for instance, Bush concludes he should have gone all in earlier by sending in federal troops. No matter the problem, Bush sees a surge as the solution.
His most important decision, Bush writes, was to put the country on a war footing after 9/11.
“September 11 redefined sacrifice. It redefined duty. And it redefined my job. The story of that week was the key to understanding my presidency,” Bush writes.
“Redefined” is exactly right. From changing the mission of the FBI and creating the Department of Homeland Security to crafting a startling new foreign policy doctrine and launching two wars, it’s hard to understate the magnitude of the changes Bush wrought after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
All the controversial policies that would follow 9/11 – USA Patriot Act, wiretapping, detention centers, waterboarding, invading Iraq – have at their core the fire of a man who sees war policy in fiercely personal terms. Today, we tend to see the war on terror in terms of Bush’s abstractions: “with us, or with the terrorists,” “axis of evil,” “make no distinction,” “ending tyranny in our world.” Yet it’s clear that he saw, and continues to see, the conflict in terms of specific American lives that he either felt a duty to protect or honor.
There are few significant revelations in “Decision Points,” but readers may learn:
•The sighting of a wild turkey at Bush’s Texas ranch may have repaired a deteriorating relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, who saw it as a good omen.
•As early as Sept. 15, 2001, some high-ranking officials were urging Bush to confront Iraq. And Bush ordered a review of battle plans against Iraq just two months after 9/11.
•Though he approved waterboarding, Bush rejected two other interrogation techniques that he felt went “too far.”
•Dick Cheney is not the “hugging type.”
On some issues, Bush may prompt readers to reconsider their opinions:
•Aid to Africa. Controversies like the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal overwhelmed news of Bush’s bold and largely effective initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases in Africa, while transforming the way the West thought about foreign aid.
•Bipartisanship. At a time when many Americans questioned his legitimacy as president, Bush collaborated with many Democrats on a range of legislation, from education reform to national security. And aside for harsh words he reserves for Sen. Harry Reid (D) of Nevada, Bush is usually gracious toward his rivals.