The sun is shining brilliantly in S. Central Michigan. I just shoveled my first snow of the winter, although we have had snow cover since Thanksgiving. I finished my Library book this morning and cleaned the drive and sidewalks this afternoon (needed the exercise). The book was Decision Points by George W. Bush (Crown Publishers/NY/2010).
It will surprise some folk who already know of my political distaste for Bush politics, but I have already read several books by historians documenting the Bush hierarchy, and the family history et al. So, I couldn’t skip George‘s presidency.
Without discussing his decision points as themes, I am sharing several quotes, but mostly leaving others to their own conclusions, with just a few thoughts of my own added.
The President was criticized for asserting too much power from the White House, among other things, and wrote on one occasion, “I disagreed strongly with the courts decision, which I considered an example of judicial activism” (p. 178).
The court said he needed congressional authorization to establish military tribunals for trying terrorists. That intrigued me since he has no problem with his appointees reversing things they disagreed with, several of whom I would charge with political activisim. Matter of perspective, it seems.
“”I have been troubled by the blowback against the intelligence community for their role in the surveilance and interrogation program” (p. 180). He lefst me feeling that his defense of national security gave him whatever options he needed or wanted, regardless of the citizen rights and irregardless of the 3-fold balance of legislative power.He was “protecting” the public, which precluded any other view (No wonder some referred to him as "King George").
“If I had to summarize my most meaningful accomplishment as president in one sentence, that would be it” - prevention of another 911 (p. 181). I thought that a very myopic view; very limited in scope. In fact, as a citizen I never felt the need for our defense that he obviously felt very strongly. Was I naive, or was he overreactive, even taking political advantage? Who is to say?
Page 204: he described Afghanistan as the 3rd poorest country in the world, with only 10% having access to health care, and 4 of 5 women illiterate. He described the country as the size of Texas with an economic output comparable to that of Billings, MT, and a life expectancy of 46 years. On page 205, he called Afghanistan the ultimate in nation building, but I keep hearing him while campaigning assert that we were not in the nation-building business.
On page 211, he agreed there is too much corruption under Karzai and seemed troubled that the CIA "did not care" as long as they did what we want them to do.
If we take Saddam Hussein out, the military phase will be the easy part, Colin Powell is quoted as telling the president (p. 238).
On page 300, he talked about the breakdown of partisanship being “bad for my administration.” While I deplored the partisanship, I was amused with him because it seemed that his party was the greatest offender … the “party of No.”
In conversation with Mitch McConnell, the KY senator suggested the president was experiencing low ratings. I found Bush’s commentary interesting: “But that wasn’t the only reason our party was in trouble. I flashed back to the Republican Congressmen sent to jail for taking bribes, disgraced by sex scandals, or implicated in lobbying investigations. Then there was our failure to reform Social Security despite majorities in both houses of Congress …” (p. 355). I can’t say I disagreed with him.
Regarding the Middle East, the President wrote:
“I concluded that the fundamental problem was the lack of freedom in the Palestinian Territories. With no state, Palestinians lacked their rightful place in the world. With no voice in their future, Palestinians were ripe for recruiting by extremists. And with no legitimately elected Palestinian leader committed to fighting terror, the Israeli’s had no reliable partner for peace. I believed the solution was a democratic Palestinian state, led by elected officials who would answer to their people, reject terror, and pursue peace with Israel” (403). I strongly agreed.
In a conversation with Josh Bolton regarding our economic crisis, he told Bolton, “My friends back home in Midland are going to ask what happened to the free-market guy they knew. They’re going to wonder why we’re spending their money to save the firms that created the crisis in the first place” (460). I wondered that myself, and wondered further how it was that President Obama was the one getting all the blame for bail-outs, socialism, ad infinitum.
The author also left this Budget comparison table of the last four presidents … for what its worth …
Spending to GDP Deficit to GDP GDP Debt to GDP
Reagan, 81-88 24.4% 4.2% 34%
Bush, 89-92 21.9 4.0 44.0
Clinton, 93-00 19.8 0.8 44.9
Bush, 01-08 19.6 2.0 36.0
I found the book easy to read. It gave me a good feel for a man I did not really appreciate. He obviously grew up as a child of privilege; I grew up as a child of poverty. I appreciate his Midland, TX surrogate heritage, having learned to love West Texas. I thought he betrayed his West Texas connection by his repeated referrals and dependence on up-East family ties, money, and friends, the real home of the Bush family.
The book bored me at times, detailing his disappointments, failing to have adequate appreciation for differing views, and failing to comprehend that there could be any other view than his. I noticed this more in his domestic social and political views and less in his foreign diplomacy.
His patriotism is commendable, but sometimes blind, and sometimes failing to see a larger picture than his view or a military solution. I watched his photo-ops in the news, especially the one of landing the plane on the Aircraft Carrier, with the banner “Mission Accomplished.” I was pleased that he was not naïve enough to believe that banner, which he blamed on his staff. I was also pleased that he candidly admitted in the book that although he flew that plane for a time, the pilot took over the controls before landing on board the Carrier.
I was genuinely relieved to see George Bush leave office, and was sharply critical of his presidency, but I feel better about the man after walking with him through his “Decision Points.” Had we more time and space we might have found more room for further agreements. I will always remember him most for his misguided war policies, but perhaps he was not as misguided as were some of his peers.
From Warner’s World, we are