Book Review: Decision Points

Instead of proceeding chronologically, George W. Bush structures this memoir of his presidency around the various “decision points” from his time as president and before: his decision to quit drinking, to run for governor and then president, to put the United States on war footing after 9/11, to invade Iraq, how to deal with the financial crisis in 2008, etc.

While he does express regret at times (e.g., that there was a “Mission Accomplished” banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003, that he flew over New Orleans after Katrina rather than landing), he is confident that the major decisions he made were the best ones to make under the circumstances. In other words, if a decision is big enough to warrant its own chapter, then it was the right decision. This confidence can sometimes be maddening, but I believe that it flows inevitably from Bush’s understanding of leadership as primarily concerned with decision-making. Since Bush believes that decision-making is what makes a good or bad leader, he is heavily invested in his major decisions being the right ones. Through much of the book, he comes across as a genuinely likable person: thoughtful, caring, empathetic, desiring to put the needs of others before his own. But when it comes to evaluating the consequences of his major decisions, it’s like he puts blinders on. He believes that major decisions are what make or break a leader, and he wants to think of himself as a good leader. Therefore, his major decisions were the right ones.

I recommend this book, but not because I agree with every decision Bush made. In fact, I agreed with some and not others. This book is unique in that it provides a view of historic events from 2000 to 2008 that is available nowhere else, and for that reason it is valuable. Like him or not, Bush was the most powerful political figure in the world for eight years. Learning about his decisions, and the rationale behind those decisions, is important for anyone seeking to gain an understanding of what happened in the first decade of the 21st century, and why.

Note: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.