Some interesting insights…
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Bush has structured this book around separate strands of his presidency rather than giving a linear account. This is a successful device in that everything relating to a subject – for instance, the financial crisis – is together in one chapter making it easy to read the book in sections. And this is just as well, because sometimes the saccharin tone Bush employs means that, like rich cake, a little goes a long way.
The first couple of chapters cover Bush’s early life and career prior to becoming president. I know it’s traditional for memoirs to cover this period but I felt, as I usually do, that I was only really interested in the chapters relating to his time in power. In fact, I really struggled to get past the early part of the book. His description of his battle with alcohol, his journey towards deep Christian faith and his love for his family was so cloyingly sweet I nearly gave up.
But either persevere or jump straight to Chapter 3. Once Bush starts talking about the decisions made in his presidency the book becomes very readable. Of course it’s full of self-justification – nearly all memoirs are – but nonetheless it does give insights into the thinking that lay behind some of the major policy decisions of the last decade. It’s not the most in-depth political book and it shuffles pretty rapidly past some of the more awkward decisions like Guantanamo but you do get a sense that he didn’t take the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan lightly and that, agree with him or not, he genuinely believed he was doing his best not just for the USA but also for the Middle East. As I read I wondered how many presidential memoirs have been so heavily weighted towards international affairs – prompted by 9/11 the Bush presidency was forced to transform the USA into an outward looking country and to assess the impact it has and could have in the rest of the world.
I can’t say this book changed my views of any of the political decisions of the time, nor did I come out of it feeling that Bush was a secret intellectual, but I did find the chapters on foreign policy interesting and to some degree enlightening. And overall, apart from his unfortunate tendency to descend into pure schmaltz on occasion, I found it an enjoyable read. Recommended.