Bookcase: Decision Points

•By George W. Bush
• Virgin Books
• RRP $75

If ever head of state needed to explain himself, the immediate past president of the United States of America, George W Bush, does. Sadly, he is as little up to this job as he was to the one he writes about.
Decision Points is biographical approach to recording Bush’s time in the White House that Bush himself says was inspired by America’s successful unionist general and 18th president, Ulysses S Grant.
That he should have looked to Grant is, it seems to me, entirely appropriate. After all, when Grant was president, according to the White House’s own historical reflections on the man, he “provided neither vigor nor reform. Looking to Congress for direction, he seemed bewildered. One visitor to the White House noted ‘a puzzled pathos, as of man with problem before him of which he does not understand the terms’.”
It is perfectly understandable that man who left his job with as much residual ill will as George Bush, would soon set about the process of self justification and vindication. But he fails even to do good job of this – thus almost ensuring that the eventual verdict on his presidency will rate down with the great blunders of American presidential history.
He is, on the other hand, “comfortable with the fact that I won’t be around to hear it [the verdict]”. The world, in the meantime, must grapple with the trash left when he exited the White House.
The book is more infuriating than disappointing. It provides evidence of an administration that consistently failed to make the connections between self-serving policies and far-reaching global impacts.
But for business readers, perhaps the most telling chapter comes near the end where, in an almost dismissive manner, he spends little time discussing the financial crisis for which the world, and the west in particular, is paying premium.
Bush, as others have so often observed, is no intellectual, though it might be reasonable to expect that in the leader of nation as significant as the US his people might expect just little more nous. More importantly, and in this book it shows through, he is not much given to doubts and self-reflection either which was problem.
At the end of his book, however, he reflects on how he, as the former President of the US, is now reduced to picking up his dog Barney’s poop when he drops it on the neighbour’s lawn. Sadly, the rest of the world is left to tidy up much greater mess.
All this aside, it is important to read really bad books sometimes. So give it go.

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