All about Mea

Article excerpt

Byline: Jacob Weisberg

W. doesn't sweat much, except history.

Upon leaving office, the U.S. president moves quickly into a new job: press agent for his past. None openly acknowledge this role, and few fail to become obsessed with it. By tradition, the former commander in chief directs his energy toward three reputational weigh-ins: the blockbuster memoir (which only the self-effacing Bush 41 failed to produce), the partisan biographical museum known as a presidential library, and his obituary.

What distinguishes George W. Bush from previous redemption seekers is that while protesting that he doesn't sweat the judgment of history, he has focused on it to the exclusion of any other useful contribution to society. Bush did not remain engaged in foreign-policy issues, like Nixon or his father, or devote himself to global good works, like Carter and Clinton. His closest model so far is LBJ, who raced around his Texas ranch and stewed.

Bush faces an even steeper climb. When he left office, he was tied with Nixon for the title of least popular president. The legacy of two unfinished wars and a financial crisis make his near-term prospects for rehabilitation look pretty bleak. The right dislikes him for leaving behind a bloated government, the left for all the obvious reasons. In coming out with a book less than two years after leaving Washington, 43 is challenging a strong consensus that rates him a failure.

Decision Points sets out a straightforward case that we should think better of him. The argument in a nutshell: after the September 11 attacks, he had to act forcefully to defend the country. He did what he thought was right, made tough decisions, and prevented another major terrorist attack. He encouraged the spread of freedom around the globe.

The presentation has some of Bush's familiar virtues: it's crisp, blunt, and doesn't ramble on and on. In the book, he does something he never did in office, namely, acknowledge error. Bush says he failed to make decisions quickly enough or communicate his concern after Hurricane Katrina. He shouldn't have let them put up that MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner. "It was a big mistake," he writes.

The book also has Bush's weaknesses: it is superficial, simplistic, and impatient to be finished. …