Persons in public life get stuck with an image that might often not do them justice. (Mary “Let them eat cakes” Antoinette was actually a compassionate queen. Thomas “Civil liberties” Jefferson owned slaves. Joe “Loquacious” Biden brings enormous intellect to policy making).
We do not know whether George W Bush deserved his image that provided easy fodder for late night comedy shows for eight years. He had an opportunity to clear things up in his book; but fails.
In his book, GWB hopes history would be kinder to his presidency than media and provides a peek into consequentially decisive moments in his presidency to facilitate history render a fairer judgment.
History would remember him for Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, he took his eyes off early and the war has become the longest engagement by the American war machine and his successor is striving to avoid defeat rather than ensure victory. In the other, he did remove a dictator but ushered in a security vacuum and a political vacuum. GWB fails to address why there was insufficient evaluation of differing views before war. Was Paul O’Neill right in his accusation that Dick Cheney came to cabinet meetings with pre-written minutes and expected everyone to follow the script? We would never know.
History would remember him for 9/11. He did well to prevent recurrence. However, the safety did have a price tag of erosion of civil liberties.
History would remember him for Katrina. Bush thinks the Governor of Louisiana was responsible. However, a President cannot bide for time in the face of natural disaster and break down of law and order.
History might remember him for failing to address the funding of social security. Changes in demographics have resulted in a sharp increase in number of retirees (who enjoy the benefits) and a sharp decrease in number of workers (who pay taxes that fund the benefits). Failure to bridge the gap by cutting entitlements and increasing taxes could make public finances unmanageable in future.
The book lacks the intellectual depth expected of a President’s memoirs. History may have to look elsewhere for a better insight into the legacy of George W Bush.