Decision Points: A Monkey’s Review
This week, we’re going for a biography that still holds plenty of interesting commentary for our world today.
George W. Bush has kept pretty quiet since the end of his presidency; his book tour was one of the only exceptions. In comparison to his predecessors, the man has stayed out of the spotlight and for the most part refrained from getting involved in the current political landscape. Maybe eight years of the most stressful job on earth will do that to a guy.
Even if you aren’t a George Bush supporter, reading his book “Decision Points” is a much-needed perspective on his presidency that he was at times unable to articulate while he sat in the Oval Office. As the title suggests, the book divides his two terms into specific events in which Bush had to weigh opposing arguments and come to a decision, which was hardly ever easy.
Of particular interest to us monkeys will be the final chapter on the financial crisis. In it, Bush talks about (among other things) the wisdom of his decision to have Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke on his team as well as the struggle to pitch the various federal interventions in the markets. Interesting facts show up throughout, including the number of times Bush had called for more regulation of Fannie and Freddie (18) as well as the number of votes by which the Republican Party opposed(65 to 133).
The story is well told, and although the decisions remain controversial, a lot of his rationale boils down to this: as ridiculous as it was to make US taxpayers foot the bill for the crisis, it would be more ridiculous to let the system suffer a total collapse.
Keep in mind that September 2008 also saw the landfall of Hurricane Ike, the Russian invasion of Georgia, and the political theater of the upcoming election. “It was a hell of a way to end the presidency,” he writes.
The rest of the biography follows much of the same format, from his first major decision on stem cell research to the war on terror and the Hurricane Katrina response. One thing I can definitely admire is that he steers clear of commenting at all upon the current Administration (in fact, only twice is Barack Obama mentioned; once when Bush tells the President-elect about his frustrations with the pardon system on the way to the inauguration, and second when Obama and McCain were both invited to the White House to help decide on crisis management).
If you want an interesting biography that makes it clear that the decisions that characterized George Bush’s presidency were bathed in all shades of gray, put this one on your reading list, monkeys. It is compulsively readable and has even received high marks from a number of my friends who were, and still are, hardcore Democrats.
Monkey’s Review 1: Barbarians At the Gate
Monkey’s Review 2: The Financier
Monkey’s Review 3: Decision Points
Monkey’s Review 4: Debunkery
Monkey’s Review 5: When Genius Failed
Monkey’s Review 6: Monkey Business
Monkey’s Review 7: Death Of The Banker
Monkey’s Review 8: A Journey
Monkey’s Review 9: Damn It Feels Good To Be A Banker
Monkey’s Review 10: The Quants
Monkey’s Review 11: All About Hedge Funds
Monkey’s Review 12: The Unlikely Disciple
Monkey’s Review 13: Adventure Capitalist
Monkey’s Review 14: The Hedge Fund Book
Monkey’s Review 15: Investing In Hedge Fund of Funds
Monkey’s Review 16: Hilarity Ensues
Monkey’s Review 17: The Prince
Monkey’s Review 18: Markets Never Forget (But People Do)
Monkey’s Review 19: The Money Culture