Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Belated Book of the Week: Decision Points

Oooh, an actual grown-up book! We haven't come across any children's books we've enjoyed as much as the first four, so here is one for those over two! 

And a real surprise it was. I will start by saying that it was D's purchase, not mine. Prior to reading this, everything I knew about George W., I disliked. Chronically disliked. I thought that he was an ignorant, inarticulate, lying, redneck buffoon. I knew D felt similarly about him and so was surprised he wanted to read this, although I've always known he's more open minded than me, so perhaps I shouldn't have been! Admittedly this book is an autobiography, so you'd hope that Bush would manage to portray himself favourably, but I was still really surprised, for a number of reasons:

1. The man is not (at least not academically) stupid. He has an undergraduate degree from Yale and a MBA from Harvard. This alone was a revelation to me, given how dumb he often sounded in the media.

2. Many of his domestic policies were ones: a) I had never heard a word about and b) I actually found appealing. He made really significant changes to America's Medicare system by enlarging it to cover prescription drugs. He tried to reform immigration laws so that the millions of people who enter America illegally could apply for temporary visas to work on specific jobs for set lengths of time (the Bill did not pass the Senate).

3. Prior to reading the book, I was very opposed to Bush's approach to stem cell research.  The main thing I knew was that my aunty, an emminent molecular biologist, was appointed to Bush's bioethics council. In 2004, after publicly criticising his policies on stem cell research, he failed to reappoint her, in what the media reported as a political move. It is clear the issue of stem cell research was a very difficult one for Bush. Even if he did later turf my aunty from his committee, (seemingly a few years after deciding on his policy) I was impressed by his discussion of opposing views and the number of opinions he sought before deciding on the policy.

4. I wound up believing him about Iraq. Prior to reading the book I thought that he had used the claim that Iraq had nuclear weapons as an excuse to topple a regime of which America disapproved. However, he was convincing:
"I had been receiving intelligence briefings on Iraq for nearly two years. The conclusion that Saddam had WMD was nearly a universal consensus. My predecessor believed it. Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill believed it. Intelligence agencies in Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia, China and Egypt believed it. ... If Saddam doesn't actually have WMD, I asked myself, why on earth would he subject himself to a war he will almost certainly lose?"
He also sought a wide variety of opinions: aside from those which came from official sources he spoke to "scholars, Iraqi dissidents in exile, and others outside the administration." Ultimately it was his description of his reaction upon realising that Iraq did not in fact have WMD:

"Members of the previous administration, John Kerry, John Edwards , and the vast majority of Congress had all read the same intelligence that I had and concluded that Iraq had WMD. So had intelligence agencies around the world. Nobody was lying. We were all wrong. ... No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn't find the weapons. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do."
So, an adult book. Non-fiction at that, and something I hadn't already read dozens of times. I'm still not sure I would have voted for Bush had I known this stuff beforehand. But a pleasant and interesting and clearly and persuasively written surprise. I urge it on Bush supporters and haters alike.

1 comment:

Naturally Carol said...

An interesting post...I'd still like to read more before commenting though...the movie did him no favours at all. Thanks for sending the cushion cover..I'll let you know when it arrives.

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