The book is written thematically, not chronologically. This is important because it gives the book a much different flavor than one that is written month by month, and year by year. This book was not ghost written. This is his hand and his words, and it comes through on every page - all 512 of them.
I had no expectations when I opened the cover other than to enjoy the book. I found it was written with a wonderful light hand, Bush being a story teller, no question about it. And he pulls no punches, he tells you the real deal and he does not filter it. Other people will write pro and con on this book depending upon their political filters. There will be none of that here. I am only interested in enjoying a book and telling you that you will also or maybe not.
I am going to give you a flavoring of the book and you will know immediately if this is for you:
* In the Presidency there are no do-over's
* Quitting drinking was one of the toughest decisions he ever made
* It wouldn't be the last time the student George Bush slept through a Yale lecture
* He says he had the same personality as his mother. He would needle people to show affection and to make a point. He flares up rapidly. He and his mother both can be real blunt, a trait that gets them into trouble from time to time
* Bush was enormously influenced by a history teacher on crutches at his prep school which was Andover Phillips Academy in Mass. His name was Tom Lyons (crippled by polio), and he nurtured, he hectored, he praised, and demanded a lot. He instilled in George Bush a love of history that remained with him throughout a lifetime.
* Reverend William Sloan Coffin was a contemporary of the president's father, George HW Bush while both were at Yale. When George W. was a student at Yale, his father had just lost his bid to become a Senator from Texas. George W. asked the Reverend to perhaps write a letter to console his father, and the Reverend's former classmate. The Reverend responded, "Your father was beaten by a better man." I don't think the future President ever recovered from the remark.
* Having spent considerable time in Texas over the last couple of decades I thoroughly enjoyed Texas wisdom which the President captures brilliantly in one statement. He refers to some people as "Book smart and sidewalk stupid".
* He sums up his education by telling us that he went to Andover by tradition, Yale by expectation, and Harvard by choice.
* The funniest story in the book is when he is sitting at a dinner party in Kennebunkport with his parents during his heavy alcohol stage, and he says to a contemporary of his parents, so what is sex like after 50. Everyone was aghast at the statement. The future President receives a note after he is elected. The note says, "Well George how is it?"
* What you are looking at here is an absolutely honest, self examination.
* When the President becomes introspective and talks about personnel, his philosophy is that the people who surround you will determine the quality of advice you receive and the way your goals are implemented.
* He mentions meeting with Margaret Thatcher who told him that she usually makes up her mind about a man in 10 seconds, and very rarely changes it.
You cannot write 500 plus pages of biography without revealing yourself. You simply cannot hide it for that long. I do not believe that this President has a bad bone in his body. Did he make mistakes, yes lots of them, and everyone else does too. It's all so easy in hindsight, and so difficult to call them accurately before the event. He takes responsibility, and welcomes history's future judgment of him. This is a man who sleeps at night.
It's all here in 14 chapters, from stem cells, September 11th, Afghanistan, Iraq, Katrina, the Surge, his freedom agenda, and finishing with the financial crisis. You will wind up reading the whole thing, and looking for more. You will be critical, and at the same time consoling, for this was and is, a good man. They may have been errors of judgment, but not of the heart. From the hiring's to the firings, read this book and you will better understand a part of history we all lived through. He holds no punches and tells you what he thinks of the players who were part of his Administration.
And then there's the family, his love of father and mother. Their loving imprint on him, and the child they produced. George Bush is the perfect example of the apple not falling very far from the tree. He is the product of a totally enveloping family where he was not pushed, but gently supported to find his own way. There were stumbles along the way including the decade long battle with alcoholism.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and ask you my fellow reader to come to it with an open mind, with a fresh eye, and try to see if you can capture some fresh thoughts on this very interesting man who has led a very interesting life. In the end it seemed to me that if George Bush was your friend, you didn't need many more friends - you were covered. Thank you for reading this review.
Richard C. Stoyeck
I read this one right after the release, and being one of the many who was tired of W and ready for him to leave office, I have a new perspective on the man - no matter if you are a Democrat, Republican, or whatever political party affiliation you may lean I believe if you read this book with an open mind you will have a new perspective on W, too: he is a man, certainly not perfect, and every decision made with the facts and circumstances at hand is subject to second guessing. After all, hindsight is 20-20.
I thought the reflections on alcohol and religion were refreshing in a politician - when do you hear of a politician having truly candid conversations on those two subjects? The realities of not finding WMD in Iraq, the repercussions of Hurricane Katrina, Scooter Libby, and the honesty come out in this book. Love him or hate him, I think this is an honest reflection, albeit with a few cards still held close to the vest - being President of the USA has to be one of the most difficult jobs ever, and wears on you. You try to make the best decisions at the time - sometimes they work out, and unfortunately sometimes they don't and you have to live with it. That is life.
If you are looking for a good read on W's perspective, I recommend you pick this one up. If you can't get over the negative - or even highly enthusiastic - celebration of W's presidency, this one is probably not for you.