In this era of supercharged presidential politics I’ve read a book about George W. Bush written by a presidential biographer who in an even tone really smacks Bush’s presidency hard. Smith gets into Bush’s decision making style as the cause of most of the difficulties. Bush called himself “The Decider.” His concept was that he would hear the various sides and then go off by himself and decide what to do and that was that. There was no revisiting a course nor was there any explanation of how he came to decide something.
The result was chaos. An Iraq invasion based on flimsy evidence was the main thing along with an unprecedented presidential endorsement of torture. Arrogance and recklessness are not the a good basis for sound policy.
Smith is much kinder about the later years of Bush’s presidency when his popularity was very low. He dealt with the financial crisis in a much different way and went ahead and did several things that ran counter to his conservative tendencies but proceeded anyway and probably saved the country for a much worse mess. When the auto industry was wobbling at the very end of his final term Bush decided to not leave it for the next president, Obama, to solve. Bush made several other controversial actions to save the industry.
Another side of Bush’s story was the lengths he went to make sure that his staff accommodate Obama and his incoming staff for a smooth transition. This time was a an era of great graciousness on the part of Bush. He and Obama have and their families have stayed great friends to this day.
I loved the book and I have to confess that I was not a fan of Bush especially when he okayed torture and when it came out that the there really was no evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
What does the book have to do with the situation today? I’ll repeat that arrogance and recklessness are not good ways to run a country.