I didn’t enjoy the George W. Bush Presidency, but I did enjoy his book Decision Points. I think he delivered a reasonably honest recap of detailing the variables that fueled his decisions as president. It also shows how politics can be a very messy game with perception. All kinds of different landmines from not looking interested at something to standing on a ship that has a banner that says “Mission Accomplished.”
However I was most interested in understanding three points when he was president.
The first was the invasion of Iraq. To this, Bush offered a pretty compelling case to defend his decision based on what he knew. Before invading Iraq, he consistently demanded for Saddam Hussein to allow for inspections for weapons of mass destruction. He said that if his demands were not met, he would invade and overthrow him. Bush describes how all signs pointed to Saddam being a “survivor” which suggested that he would comply to searches, especially if he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. Bush also describes his dismay when he found out later that Saddam, after being captured, said that he didn’t believe Bush would really invade Iraq. Who knows how Bush would have behaved had Saddam consented to searches, but the fact that he offered clear paths for peace, which Saddam ignored, gives merit to the concept that Bush wasn’t truly driven for war.
The second was privatizing social security. I probably got too excited about this when he promised it during the campaign of 2004. Bush had both the house and senate to make the changes. Suffice to say, it didn’t happen, and instead he expanded upon entitlements my pushing out Medicare Part D. His reasons for failing to curb social security were basically that he didn’t have the political power to do it. This is probably somewhat accurate, but it certainly deviated from the confident promise he had during the campaign. Whatever. Another campaign promise broken.
My final interest was the bank bailout in 2008. Again I felt he did the exact opposite of what should have been done which is let them all fail. Instead he explains how panic stricken bankers and advisers pleaded for him to act and warned of Armageddon if he failed to “DO SOMETHING”. While I definitely think he did the wrong think, it does offer a human explanation. When panic is everyone, it’s probably difficult not to act. Conversely the act of “doing nothing” and saying, “it’s going to be okay” would probably have received incredible wrath from the media and his colleagues. While I’d like to think a strong and smarter leader would have behaved differently, it’s at least understandable how he screwed up. Unfortunately it was the tune of billions of dollars, but who’s counting?
As I said I think Bush was a “terrible-as-usual president” that we have had since Reagan. Way too mush spending, too much trying to be the world’s police officer, and continual reductions in liberty. Of course, even worse was that this just set the stage for Obama to ratchet up the spending and military policing even more.
Now that I type this all up, and think about his presidency, I’m not entirely sure why I liked this book. He was a terrible president! However he at least gives some comprehensible explanations on what he was or wasn’t thinking.