Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...
The first presidential election for which I was eligible to vote was in 2004, and I voted against Bush as my foray into civic participation. Given Bush's purported disinclination towards the "East Coast, Ivy League establishment," I'm guessing he wouldn't have been a big fan of mine either. However, these were not really relevant factors in my enjoying the book. If you're looking for a hagiography or a smear job you'll be disappointed.
What Peter Baker has created is an impressively smooth narrative of the goings-ons in the world and the White House during the Bush Administration (with some basic biographical tales for both Bush and Cheney). The information isn’t really aimed at swaying your opinion about these events one way or the other. It just tells you more.
I came away from this with a greater appreciation for both Bush and Cheney (and a cabinet member here or there) as they transformed from caricatures to complex individuals as I read. Baker gives you the background, antecedents, behind-the-scenes and public portrayal of milestone moments and events (which will undoubtedly make this book all the more valuable for history’s sake). The more humanizing moments didn’t detract from the weight of decisions made. I certainly didn’t change my stance on whether or not we should have gone to war with Iraq, but I do appreciate the gravity with which Bush addressed this throughout his time in office. Bush definitely cried a lot more during his stint as POTUS than I would have thought.
The cabinet dynamics weren’t dissimilar from those that preceded them. There were differences of opinions, fall guys, business-related biases, and definitely some hurt feelings. (I never knew that Rumsfeld was Condaleezza Rice’s sensei, or mentor or whatever, and it was a fascinating relationship to watch collapse.) I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that Cheny was a fan of Darrell Hammond’s portrayal of him on SNL or that Bush was super into challenging people to bicycle races.
This was a great listen (thanks audible) that, at times, felt almost nostalgic for me as I encountered the events (from Al Gore’s sighs during the presidential debates to Cheney’s hunting fiasco) that dominated the news from my sophomore year of high school through college graduation. While the tour down memory lane played in to my enjoyment factor, I give Baker a great deal of credit as a story teller. I’d definitely recommend this both to the people of now and the future (though I’m not too worried about chrononauts needing my book recommendations).