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Decision Points

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In 14 chapters, Bush tells the stories of key decisions that shaped his life, his presidency, and the fates of millions of lives around the world, from quitting drinking and invading Afghanistan and Iraq to tackling the 2008 financial crisis.

“Decision Points” is an apt title. Bush makes clear he craves rapid results and resolve, not process and painstaking deliberation. So even in rare cases where Bush acknowledges really wrestling with the right course of action, such as his drawn-out decision on whether to fund stem-cell lines, readers get only snapshots of Bush’s binary calculations, not a window into his thinking.

What unites virtually every decision Bush made was his belief – either maddening or principled, depending on your point of view – that the risks of inaction always exceeded the risks of action. Such a bias meshed perfectly with his determination to avoid playing “small ball” as president. The result is that Bush, and the full resources of the United States government, frequently went “all in” in the face of crisis.

Take the 2008 financial storm. Individual bank bailouts aren’t working? Create an $800 billion program (“Troubled Asset Relief Program”) to buy securities. Not sufficient? Capitalize the banks directly. Now auto companies are hurting? Fine, use TARP money to help them.

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