Thursday, November 04, 2010
In Bush Memoir, Policy Intersects With Personality
Photo - Doug Mills/The New York Times
President George W. Bush in 2007.
By Michiko Kakutani
Published: New York Times November 3, 2010
by George W. Bush
Illustrated. 497 pages. Crown Publishers. $35.
George W. Bush’s memoir “Decision Points” could well have been titled “The Decider Decides”: it’s an autobiography focused around “the most consequential decisions” of his presidency and his personal life from his decision to give up drinking in 1986 to his decision to invade Iraq in 2003 to his decisions regarding the financial crisis of 2008. It is a book that is part spin, part mea culpa, part family scrapbook, part self-conscious effort to (re)shape his political legacy.
A dogged work of reminiscence by an author not naturally given to introspection, “Decision Points” lacks the emotional precision and evocative power of his wife Laura’s book, “Spoken From the Heart,” published earlier this year, though it’s a considerably more substantial effort than Mr. Bush’s perfunctory 1999 campaign memoir, “A Charge to Keep.”
Certainly it’s the most casual of presidential memoirs: how many works in the genre start as a sort of evangelical, 12-step confession (“Could I continue to grow closer to the Almighty or was alcohol becoming my god?”), include some off-color jokes and conclude with an aside about dog poop?
The prose in “Decision Points” is utilitarian, the language staccato and blunt. Mr. Bush’s default mode is regular-guy-politico, and his moods vacillate mainly among the defensive and the diligent — frat boy irreverence, religious certainty and almost willful obliviousness.
The Bush who emerges from these pages will be highly familiar to readers of Bob Woodward’s quartet of books on the administration or Robert Draper’s 2007 “Dead Certain”: a president fond of big ideas and small comforts (like a daily run); a chief executive known for his optimism, stubbornness and lack of curiosity. At the same time “Decision Points” — sometimes deliberately, sometimes inadvertently — gives the reader an uncanny sense of how personality and the fateful interplay of personalities within an administration can affect policies that affect the world.
Read the rest at NYT.