Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review: Decision Points by George W. Bush's Ghostwriter

It took me about two months to get through Decision Points. I wasn't sure at first if I wanted to read it. I found it in the library and decided to give it a shot. At points I considered stopping it and moving on to another book.

This book won't win any literary awards. It's written in the simple, plain-spoken style the former President speaks in. You can almost hear his voice in your head as you read it. His ghostwriter, who was his chief speechwriter at the end of his Presidency, did a great job of capturing his voice.

I give this book three stars out of five, but not for the reasons you might think. I am neither a Republicrat nor a Demonican. I consider myself a libertarian, but I'm starting to slide toward being an anarchist. So whether I agree with the former President or not is not a consideration in my review. I give it three stars because it was a chore to read. While a few sections were fairly exciting and gave me a glimpse into GWB's mind at the time the events were transpiring, other sections seemed like his ghostwriter went to great lengths to justify his decision long after the point was made. The chapter on Iraq was one such part of the book It just kept going on, and on, and on, long after he laid out the events and reasons why he made his decision for it.  At one point, I felt like I was reading a book by a pastor who had long since made his point but kept going with anecdote after anecdote for no good reason, probably just to puff of the page length of the book. I don't think "Decision Points" suffered from a lack of material for length, so it felt like he just kept going to try to justify Iraq.

The concept behind "Decision Points" is that it's not meant to be an exhaustive recounting of the entire 8 year Presidency. It's meant to focus on what the former President considered his most important decisions and why he made them.

"Decision Points" starts out with GWB's decision to quit drinking, and what led him there. It lays out the early parts of his life and his dad's life, and a sibling that did not live. While the book touches on how the former President and his former President dad both went to Yale, there's no mention of Skull and Bones, I guess because it's a see-krit.

The former President speaks about his faith a little. It was necessary to explain parts of his past (including his decision to quit drinking) and some of his decisions. I don't think he spent too much time on it, and mentions of his faith were matter-of-fact rather than evangelical. Some of you angry atheists might have a problem with it, but the problem might have more to do with you than the former President. He mentions doubt at one point, and says something to the effect of "If you've never doubted, you haven't giving enough thought". I took the book back to the library, so I can't check the exact quote.

He gives some interesting insights into the reason behind some things. For instance, on page 257, he says his staff placed the "Mission Accomplished" banner on the Lincoln, and the banner was meant to tell the CREW they had accomplished their mission. The former President's ghostwriter explains the former President's pain as that "Mission Accomplished" was taken by the media to supposedly refer to the entire Iraq action which is still going on now, a decade later under his successor President's second term. 

It became tedious to read his justifications for spending OPM (Other People's Money) on things like African AIDS and Katrina relief. I don't consider this noble. I would have been more impressed had he and Cheney whipped out their oversized Texas checkbooks and started funding this stuff out of their own pockets. No effort is noble when done through the unmitigated force of government. He also at one point said he was proud that they were able to "raise awareness". I expect better from a Harvard MBA.

Bush (ghostwriter) says he read 14 books on Lincoln during his presidency. That's impressive. I read years ago that when he was President, Bush had a bet with Karl Rove on who could read the most books in a year. That's where I got my own 100 book challenge from. I think 56 is the best I've done, but I plan to get to 100 books a year at some point.

In "My Men Are My Heroes- The Brad Kasal Story", Sgt Maj Brad Kasal said when President Bush came to visit him in the hospital, he felt he was in the presence of a leader. Sgt Maj Kasal had lead Marines for more than 20 years by that point. I know people who have met Sgt Maj Kasal. They say if he felt former President Bush is a leader, then he must be. Sgt Maj Kasal would know a leader.

It's said the victor gets to tell the history. Former President Bush says in his book that the history surrounding George Washington still isn't settled in a lot of ways, so he doesn't expect the history of his Presidency to be settled in his lifetime.

I want to set the record that I'm trying to separate the politics from the person. By all accounts I've heard, former President Bush is a great guy. People in the military that have come across him say he's very kind and gracious and down to Earth. He seems like the kind of guy you could enjoy an afternoon hanging out with, or taking off on a great adventure with. I disagree with some of his policies and some of the actions he took. I think our freedom and liberty took some tremendous hits under his Presidency. He set the stage for a coming economic crisis, which is being accelerated by his successor.

Taken in the context in which it is meant, "Decision Points" isn't a bad book. I only rate it three stars because it was tedious to finish. I considered taking it back to the library halfway through. The library at work allows almost infinite renewals as long as there isn't a hold on the book, so I had this one for two or two and a half months. I was glad to take it back and move on to "Six Frigates- The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy".

I was going to use part of this blog post to rant about ghostwriting, but I'll save it for another post. I'm sure I've done it before. Ghostwriting pisses me off.

You can buy Decision Points here.
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