Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Decision Points

Not to be outdone by anyone, George W. Bush will be providing his memoirs in the White House and the Texas Governor's Mansion in Decision Points.  The publishers note:

In gripping, never-before-heard detail, President Bush brings readers inside the Texas Governor’s Mansion on the night of the hotly contested 2000 election; aboard Air Force One on 9/11 in the gripping hours after America’s most devastating attack since Pearl Harbor; inside the Situation Room in the moments before launching the war in Iraq; and behind the Oval Office desk for his historic and controversial decisions on the financial crisis, Hurricane Katrina, Afghanistan, Iran, and other issues that have shaped the first decade of the 21st century.

I can hardly wait.


  1. Of all these new books, the one that I might be tempted to read is Woodward's Obama's War, which is apparently making quite a splash already.

    At some point it might be fun to read some of the Obama books -- there are several out there now. I still want to read Renegade which may be the best of the bunch, since I really like Richard Wolff.

  2. I don't plan on buying this one, that's for sure. Back in 2001 or 2002 I read Elizabeth Mitchell's W: Revenge of the Bush Dynasty, and later Kevin Philips American Dynasty. That is all I want to read of Bush. But, I thought this book was worth mentioning, if only because he seems determined to remind us he was president once.

  3. I read Phillips' book at the time, which I vaguely remember as being interesting. He's a good writer. But something about W doesn't interest me. It may be that he's too easy to understand, and the damage too great.

    (But then I've never been interested in Nixon, either, or LBJ, until I started reading all the Caro books.)

    Reagan, because of his sainthood, is starting to get more interesting. But like Nixonland it's more of a question of what in the world happened to make this even possible? Hopefully Perlstein will keep to his theme.

    I remember feeling totally clueless when I found out people I knew actually voted for Reagan. "He was not what we were expecting," was their excuse. To which I replied, "But what were you expecting?"

  4. I wouldn't believe a single thing that Bush "wrote."

    I've read a number of Woodward books, but I think I'm finished with him. (I may be able to explain on another day.) I'm not surprised that Obama was under pressure from advisors to stay in Afghanistan.

    Jimmy Carter's new book may be interesting.

  5. I can't imagine George Bush being "gripping' unless it has to do with his attempt to get a grip on reality.He seems to have a sense of humor which is much like that of Herbert Hoover. "Gripping?" I'd have to see it befoe I believe it....I pedict his memoirs will not sell even to the level of Reagan's--by far the worst written memoirs in presidential history. He's a mediocre speaker, and a poor writer--to say his memoirs have "gripping" passages has to be gross exaggeration and pur hyperbole.Cut me a break.

  6. Marti, I haven't read any of the Woodward books, but as I recall he was a little too cozy with Bush et al. without giving what he reported on any weight or context.

    In her usual snarky way, Michiko Kakutani gets at that saying that Woodward doesn't bother with evaluating anything but rather "hews to his I Am a Tape Recorder technique."

    Still, if people are willing to talk to him (she is vague about how much of this can be believed) it may be worth reading.

  7. They have to sell his book somehow, Bob, so the publishers make it look like Bush will reveal something we don't already know. Surprised Gipper did so poorly. But, I guess the religious right doesn't read. Same fate will befall Dubya. But, I guess it was now or never. This is a guy destined for obscurity.

  8. The Bush book will be a blockbuster. Along with all the people who like him are the right-wing organizations that will buy in bulk.

    I'm not sure and it may not be public knowledge, but I think that Woodward is Republican. Correct me if you know otherwise. He was cozy with the W. crowd.

    There were some ultra-rightwingers in the 60s-90s who wanted Nixon out of there. I read a whole book about this but cannot remember the man's name who pushed a very hawkish agenda. They thought they found their man in Reagan but were disappointed about him talking to Gorbachev.

    I borrowed this from the library, but I have a record of it somewhere. It's not an old book and came out about a year ago.

  9. This is the book I was trying to think of: The Forty Years War by Len Colodny, Tom Shachtman. Also The Bush Dynasty. Read it in March, 2010.

    Also Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America
    by Russ Baker

  10. Here's an excerpt from a big blurb in Goodreads about The Forty Years War. Fritz Kramer is who I was referring to as a big hawk:

    "And it reveals the role of the mysterious Pentagon official Fritz Kraemer, a monocle-wearing German expatriate whose unshakable faith in military power, distrust of diplomacy, moralistic faith in American goodness, and warnings against "provocative weakness" made him the hidden geopolitical godfather of the neocon movement. The authors' insights into Kraemer's influence on protÉgÉs such as Kissinger and Haig—and later on Rumsfeld and the neocons—will change the public understanding of the conduct of government in our time."

    I had a music history professor at Manhattan School of Music whose name was the same (Fritz Kramer -- must be common German name).

  11. I'm not sure this is a book the rightwingers will be all that interested in. They seem to prefer Beck and Limbaugh and Hannity and that crowd, judging by Amazon book rankings.

  12. Whatever Woodward's political affiliation, he seems to keep it close to his breast. But, the fact that he wasted four books on Bush makes you wonder what he was hoping to find in the Bush White House. He was apparently quite cozy with the Bush administration, at least in the beginning. I bought the first one but quickly gave up, as Woodward appeared to swallow that whole WMD argument hook, line and sucker.

  13. Have to admit I have never heard of Fritz Kramer. Scary when you think of these men (and they usually are men) in the backroom making policy.

    I know little about Woodward either. But I assume his main objective is to get access. If that's your goal, you don't want to put too much spin on anything you write. Just the so-called facts.

    Still, it's scary to think he was taken in by the weapons of mass destruction nonsense. I mentioned the War Lovers here before -- shows how a nation can suddenly go off its rocker in pursuit of war.

    Our problem is we still haven't quite found our bearings since GW. He sort of brought the whole nation down with him and I don't see Obama getting it together to respond. Clinton wants him to get out on the street and feel the pain, but I don't see that in Obama's nature. Maybe he is too Carteresque (not that in itself is a bad thing).

    In the meantime, put in an order for Renegade last night.

  14. And hope to get my book on Dylan today. Anyone know how to reach Barton? Wonder if this is something he might be interested in.

    How about you Bo? Any interest in the Village in the 1950s and beyond?

    And Rick? Are you in the new doctoral program now? As a fellow traveler, I'm curious how that's going.

  15. I can't imagine wanting to read this book. But then some people would question the value of reading a book about Bob Dylan.

    About a month ago I watched W, the film. Can I assume that everyone here has seen the film?

  16. I haven't seen W. Is it good?

    I've been watching How I Won the War in bits and pieces... I love Richard Lester.

  17. ''I pedict his memoirs will not sell even to the level of Reagan's''

    It will be recalled that there was an article a while back about a right wing group that buys up thousands of books (and gets big tax deductions for doing so) in order to prop up sales numbers of those books. By doing so, it gives the appearance that the delusional right wingers represent a larger portion of the population than they actually do.

  18. ''Maybe he is too Carteresque ''

    I note that some right wing critics compare Obama to Carter, supposedly as failures. But if their administrations do have something in common - that is if they are failures - it is only that they failed to clean up the mess left by Republicans.

  19. Interesting idea.

    I was thinking more along the line of being too analytical and detached (i.e., intelligent), which doesn't seem to connect with most voters, alas.

    Even Pat Buchanan the other night admitted that Carter was much smarter than Reagan and knew much more about the world, but Reagan knew how to "connect" with the electorate. Of course, then Buchanan had to add "and he was right..."

    The difficult thing for me to compute is that I heard Obama speak during the campaign and in those days he really did know how to connect with people. The field house here was packed and people arrived before sunrise to line up to get in. I registered 100 voters for the campaign.

    I try to see the world through his eyes (like the attack they prepared for on his inauguration day and an economy about to collapse, not to mention two on-going occupations). And you know he went in there and worked round the clock to keep the country afloat.

    I'm beginning to feel like that woman on CNBC the other night. I still support him, but it's getting harder and harder not to be critical at this point.

  20. W is okay. Definitely not a must see.

    People on both sides of the aisle seem only sure that they don't like what is happening in this country. The typical American is more comfortable being angry than anything else right now. Unfortunately, anger never gets anyone very far. How long this can last before people get sick of all the negativity is anyone's guess. But if you happen to be in the catbird's seat, like Obama is, you can expect to get shot at from all directions for as long as the mood lasts.

    Part of Obama's low approval rating is due to mistakes or miscalculations he and his administraton have made. But only part. With the electorate so evenly divided in recent years, the midterm election season will always be one of political discontent. Also, many people who voted for Obama allowed themselves to believe (key word) he would be able to do more than he can. They are disappointed; what they ought to admit is that their expectations were unrealistic. It feels good to believe. It's kind of like drinking too much champagne; it's a blast until you have to get out of bed the next day.

  21. I was certainly hopeful but always saw Obama as the centrist of the group. I supported Edwards (talk about disappointed!).

    I keep hoping (that word again) that the administration will get ahead of public opinion. The choice facing the nation is pretty bleak. Even Bohner feels free at this point to admit that they haven't changed and would continue doing what they always have done. Not a particular rosy future if we put the leaky ship in reverse and head back to how we got into this mess.

    Sad thing is that by the economics measures (which always seem slightly out of touch with general reality) we are inching toward recovery. Things are starting to work -- even in Montana according to state economists.

    But if the republicans gain power, they can take credit for that, while Obama will take the heat for the terrible two years we've been through. Not fair but then politics never is I guess.

  22. I see the eternally tanned Boehner and co. have issued their "Pledge to America,"

    promising to renew Bush's tax cuts, among other things. Yet one more cynical ploy by the Republicans to regain power, despite the fact they would still be well short of the numbers in the Senate to pull off such a fete if somehow they were able to pick up over 40 seats to retake the House.

  23. He's baaaacckk....

    I saw excerpts last night of his interview with Matt Lauer, lightweight, and Bush is still wearing that same smirk like he really got away with something.

    Like the U.S. economy maybe?

  24. The man of the perpetual smirk. This is basically a book launch, with the hope there enough fools out there to buy his silly Memoirs.

  25. I shared this from Sundays' paper with Teddy up north:

    Yet if W.’s decision-making leaves something to be desired, his story-telling is good. He writes of a visit to Russia, when Putin showed him his black Labrador, Koni. “Bigger, stronger, and faster than Barney,” Putin bragged. Later, when W. recounted this to Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, Harper drolly noted, “You’re lucky he only showed you his dog.”

  26. Affection and Trust by Harry S. Truman and Dean Acheson
    "The candid views of these two old and mutually trusted friends on affairs of state and the personalities involved in them are invaluable sources of information. Scholars and historians will be mining this trove for years to come." —Dr. Henry Kissinger

    In this riveting collection, published for the first time, we follow Harry S. Truman and Dean Acheson, two giants of the post–World War II period, as they move from an official relationship to one of candor, humor, and personal expression. Together they were primarily responsible for the Marshall Plan and NATO, among other world-shaping initiatives. And in these letters, spanning the years from when both were newly out of office until Acheson's death at the age of seventy-eight, we find them sharing the often surprising and always illuminating opinions, ideas, and feelings that the strictures of their offices had previously kept them from revealing.

    Adapting easily to their private lives, they nonetheless felt a powerful need to keep in touch as they viewed with dismay what they considered to be the Eisenhower administration's fumbling of foreign affairs, the impact of Joseph McCarthy, John Foster Dulles's foreign policy, and the threat of massive nuclear retaliation. Adlai Stevenson's poor campaign of 1956, Eisenhower's second-term mishaps, family events, speaking engagements, and Truman's difficulties writing his memoirs are all fodder for their conversations. In 1960 their skeptical stance toward John F. Kennedy (and his father's influence) turned them toward Lyndon Johnson. After Kennedy won they discussed Acheson's reluctant involvement in the Cuban missile crisis, his missions to de Gaulle and Prime Minister Macmillan, and the Allied position in Berlin.

    Unbuttoned, careless of language, unburdened by political ambition or vanity, Truman and Acheson show their own characters and loyalty to each other on every page. Truman, a Missouri farmer with the unpolished but sharp intellect of the largely self-educated man, clearly understands that in Acheson he has a friend with a rare gift for providing unhesitant and truthful counsel. Acheson, well-educated, urbane, and well-off, understands which traits in Truman's complex character to love and admire and when to admonish, instruct, and tease him. Both men share a deep and abiding patriotism, a quality that truly stands out in today's world.

    A remarkable book that brings to light the very human side of two of the most important statesmen of the twentieth century.


  27. Jon Stewart has some with Bush's book tour,

  28. The Two Most Essential, Abhorrent, Intolerable Lies Of George W. Bush's Memoir,

    Essentially, this book should be filed under "Fiction."

  29. From the George Packer review in the New Yorker:

    Why did George We Bush write “Decision Points:? He tells us on the first page. He wanted to make a contribution to the study of American history, but he also wanted to join the section of advice books featuring leadership tips from successful executives: “I write to give readers a perspective on decision making in a complex environment. Many of the decisions that reach the president’s desk are tough calls, with strong arguments on both sides …. Perhaps it will even prove useful as you make choices in your own life.”

    Here is a prediction [Packer continues]: “Decision Points” will not endure. Its prose aims for tough-minded simplicity but keeps landing on simpleminded sententiousness….

  30. Ultimately, the book will just serve as fodder for more derision points on Bush, given Bush would be incapable of writing any book of length on his own. One of this derision points is that he turned to a 28-year-old Yalie to ghostwrite his book,

  31. The next sentence from above is:

    "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…."

    Sounds like Packer got it exactly right.

  32. Seems that one of the reasons books like this one top bestseller lists is because of faux pre-orders. This was the case with Sarah Palin's Going Rogue,

    People come in to stores like B&N and pre-order these books or online through amazon, leading these distributors to push publishers to increase quantities. Conservative groups are often behind these scams, either reneging on the orders or pawning them off through conservative outlets.

    Very few of these books stay atop bestseller lists and usually end up in bargain bins.

  33. Yeah, I wondered how many thousands of GW's books the Heritage Foundation and his library have already purchased. They give them away as premiums.....

    But did you know there is also a $350 limited edition, signed by GW? It comes with gold embossed lettering on the cover and... it's numbered and shrink-wrapped. What a deal for the holidays!

  34. Not surprising. He is like a recurring nightmare. You just want him to quietly go away but there he is on virtually every talk show, including Oprah, promoting his book. The funny part is that he apparently thinks he is offering readers lessons in leadership. I suppose he is in a negative sense.

  35. Does anyone remember when fine Jim Wright, Congressman/Speaker of the House from Ft. Worth, was destroyed because of the semi-faux purchases of a book he wrote? Here's the Wiki link; it points out that the level of partisanry we now experience more or less began with Newt Gingrich's attack on Wright.

  36. There is a sappy thread on Kindleboards about W.'s book. I shouldn't even look at it (they discourage political discussions, but it's OK for people to post about their admiration for someone in a book). Some people are just lapping up this book and taking it all for gospel truth. I'm sure that they are in a small minority.

  37. I vaguely remember that incident with Wright. Apparently, it is now de rigeur in conservative politics, as politicians are determined to have their books top the bestseller lists and I guess justify the fantastic advances they get on their "memoirs" and opinions.

    I think any biographer is going to have the same difficulty with Dubya that Edmund Morris had with "Dutch."

  38. One of the most annoying things about Facebook is that you can only "like" something or someone. No option for "dislike." I suppose it is an attempt to make this a kinder, friendlier world, but it seems rather blissfully naive. With amazon, which had established a "people's network" long before Facebook, you can rate books, music, DVD's from one to five stars, you can like or dislike someone's comments.

  39. Another flaw in facebook is that, in order to post on a group page, you have to click "like" first. I found myself clicking "like" just so that I could write something. Businesses and public figures express great satisfaction about having a certain number of likes on their facebook page.

  40. Bush's book is no longer even in the Top 100 of Amazon. Clearly a case of inflated advance orders that put it ever so briefly at the top of sales.

    Twain remains no. 2, now edged out by Grisham's latest potboiler.

  41. Bush is still at the top of the NY Times Bestsellers in hard-cover non-fiction. I expected Sarah Palin to overtake him as soon as her book came out, but I've heard that her sales are lower than expected. But she is on the Times list in the top 10.

    I think that both of these books should be categorized as fiction.

  42. Not that I would wish a remembering of that president on anyone, I thought this was an interesting review to read: