Sunday, March 25, 2012

Decision Points

Nothing gets me more charged than political season.  These crazy primaries have made me nostalgic for elections past.  I've spent the past several weeks delving in to the 2008 election.  I thought I'd revisit the beginning of last decade this time and read Decision Points by George W. Bush.

Admittedly, I was as down on the president at the end of his tenure as just about everyone else in the country.  But time heals all wounds and provides so much insight.  I found this book to be very interesting and well-written.

The structure is unique.  Instead of taking his presidency year by year, event by event, Bush focuses on critical decisions he was forced to make.  Each chapter focuses on a different decision.  Therefore, the book is technically not in chronological order.  But any fool knows the order of events since 2000 (or am I being too presumptuous?)  The first chapter discusses his choice to stop drinking and how it has shaped the rest of his life.  He then discusses the 2000 election, 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, the economic crisis, and other key topics.  I think its very easy for the armchair warriors to criticize choices any president makes.  It is mind blowing that the safety and integrity of our country rests in the outcome of decisions made by the president.  But he doesn't act without counsel.  The president has a team of advisers and is privy to intelligence briefings.  That being said, Bush takes complete ownership of all his decisions and admits that in some cases, he got it wrong.

I was not aware that Bush is as faithful and reverent as he is.  He reads the Bible every morning.  He wanted to make federal funding for faith-based organizations a part of his platform, but all his early ideas took the back burner after Sept. 11th.  I hadn't really thought about it until I read this book, but Bush had a very eventful 8 years in office.  You'd almost have to be a believer to get though all that without losing your sanity.

I found it very touching that he wrote personal letters to every family who lost a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan.  While time consuming, I should think that's the very least he could do.  He concedes that his decision is what put the men and women in harms way to begin with.

The book also offers a glimpse into the daily life and traditions of the president.  For instance, every outgoing president writes a letter to the new one and leaves it on the desk in the Oval Office.  Bush left one for Obama after meeting with him in depth to discuss the economic fallout.  The peaceful change of power in our country really is something to marvel at.

Bush ends by stating that he knows all his decisions weren't popular, but that he made every one with the best intentions for the country.  I'm glad I read the book.  I'm also glad that I read it 4 years after the end of his presidency.   It gave me more perspective.  It will be interesting to see how he is perceived 20 years from now.

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