George Bush’s recently released memoir Decision Points is unlikely to change anyone’s opinion on one of the world’s most divisive characters, but instead confirms whatever you already thought of the former United States president. This is your last chance to go as deep as it gets, but keep in mind, he’s into action rather than intellect or introspection. The result is a summary of his actions, written in short, blunt prose that mimics a fireside chat.
Previously unseen highs of emotional intelligence are sprinkled throughout Bush’s account of his decision making, but more evident is the all-encompassing Bush factor: unwavering inner strength emanating from his familial roots and religious faith.
His intractable stance — on foreign policy at least — is defended with characteristic conviction: going to bed knowing that 400potential September 11s threaten America’s homeland every month is a weight that never burdened the shoulders of any president so heavily. The events that transpired after September 11 and the shifting sands of the Middle East are far too large, and their radius far too wide, for them to be judged so soon, Bush would have us believe.
Though Bush’s inherited thick skin allowed him to cruise above the political frenzy, it is his own introspection that brings faultfinding. Without blaming the CIA, he admits he gets a “sickening feeling to this day” that intelligence reports were wrong about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, but adds a familiar aside: the world is a safer place without its former dictator. To dispel popular belief that the United States entered Iraq for oil, he devotes but half a line in the 497-page memoir: “It’s simply not true.”
He tries to tell us that media analysis of his decisions is too sophisticated to be useful. To understand his decision-making process, look no further than his historical review of West Texas. The world really is black and white. This memoir is the white-out to smother all the “God damn” dirty politics that sullied his time in power. But the hope that lacing in a couple of jokes here and there will make him more likeable, and thus believable, actually works; his machismo and naiveté blend well. It’s sweet if you can set aside the bloodshed.
Blunt admissions of embarrassing pitfalls swarm the memoir, hitting a home-run on the field of self-cleansing. On his 40th birthday, he disappointed his parents and wife at a dinner party when he drunkenly asked an older lady what sex is like after 50. Then there’s his bitter inner battle to quit drinking in 1986 and his mother’s never-before-mentioned bouts with clinical depression.
Perhaps what would ease America’s struggle for allies is the natural extension of this typical American ideal: the country mimics the born-again nature of its people. Tomorrow is a new day, our outlook and positions change, we are born again with new convictions, and our foreign policy is not written in stone.
Instead, he convinces us that it’s written in his heart. Imagine a double-date sleepover party with Tony and Cherie Blair in Camp David, February 2001. The former president would have us believe that one of the most important alliances to come was based on bonding over the comedy “Meet the Parents.”
His mistrust of Arab leaders such as Yasser Arafat is made colorfully clear, but awkward meetings with others make us wonder why he’s flaunting the role of luck in his politics. After Saudi Arabia’s Prince Abdullah left Crawford Ranch bemused by the president, it was the prince’s stop to see Bush Senior that patched up relations with America’s most important Arab ally.
To add to his foreign policy folder, an over simplification of Lebanon’s 2005 Cedar revolution balances out an otherwise media-unfriendly Middle East news reel. At least Walid Joumblatt might be happy to be quoted in the New York Times #1 bestseller.