George Bush Was Not Very Good At Making Decisions

The New Yorker looked at George Bush’s memoir Decision Points and found that The Decider was not actually very good at making decisions:

Here is a prediction: “Decision Points” will not endure. Its prose aims for tough-minded simplicity but keeps landing on simpleminded sententiousness. Though Bush credits no collaborator, his memoirs read as if they were written by an admiring sidekick who is familiar with every story Bush ever told but never got to know the President well enough to convey his inner life. Very few of its four hundred and ninety-three pages are not self-serving…

Every memoir is a tissue of omission and evasion; memoirs by public figures are especially unreliable. What’s remarkable about “Decision Points” is how frequently and casually it leaves out facts, large and small, whose absence draws more attention than their inclusion would have. In his account of the 2000 election, Bush neglects to mention that he lost the popular vote. He refers to the firing, in 2002, of his top economic adviser, Lawrence Lindsey, but not to the fact that it came immediately after Lindsey violated the Administration’s optimistic line by saying that the Iraq war could cost as much as two hundred billion dollars. In a brief recounting of one of the central scandals of his Presidency, the Administration’s outing of the intelligence officer Valerie Plame, Bush doesn’t acknowledge that two senior White House aides, Karl Rove and Lewis (Scooter) Libby, alerted half a dozen reporters to her identity…

The steady drip of these elisions and falsifications suggests a deeper necessity than the ordinary touch-ups of personal history. Bush has no tolerance for ambiguity; he can’t revere his father and, on occasion, want to defy him, or lose charge of his White House for a minute, or allow himself to wonder if Iraq might ultimately fail. The structure of “Decision Points,” with each chapter centered on a key issue—stem-cell research, interrogation and wiretapping, the invasion of Iraq, the fight against AIDS in Africa, the surge, the “freedom agenda,” the financial crisis—reveals the essential qualities of the Decider. There are hardly any decision points at all. The path to each decision is so short and irresistible, more like an electric pulse than like a weighing of options, that the reader is hard-pressed to explain what happened. Suddenly, it’s over, and there’s no looking back. The decision to go to war “was an accretion,” Richard Haass, the director of policy-planning at the State Department until the invasion of Iraq, told me. “A decision was not made—a decision happened, and you can’t say when or how.”

…Here is another feature of the non-decision: once his own belief became known to him, Bush immediately caricatured opposing views and impugned the motives of those who held them. If there was an honest and legitimate argument on the other side, then the President would have to defend his non-decision, taking it out of the redoubt of personal belief and into the messy empirical realm of contingency and uncertainty. So critics of his stem-cell ban are dismissed as scientists eager for more government cash, or advocacy groups looking to “raise large amounts of money,” or Democrats who saw “a political winner.”

…What he cannot explain is why he allowed Iraq to descend into a nightmare of violence, year after year, until, by 2006, millions of Iraqis were fleeing the country. Perhaps he didn’t know what was going on, having been shielded by sycophantic advisers and yes-sir generals. Yet “Decision Points”—indeed, the whole trajectory of Bush’s Presidency—suggests that he had the information but not the character to face it. “I waited over three years for a successful strategy,” he says in a chapter called “Surge.” But what sort of wartime leader—a term he likes to use—would “wait” for three years, rather than demand a better strategy and the heads of his failed advisers?

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    Mugwumpie says:

    RT @RonChusid: George Bush’s memoir shows The Decider was not actually very good at making decisionss #p2 #p21 #topprog http://bit.ly/fpyClT

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