A thorough, objective and surprisingly positive examination of the Bush-Cheney years.
Written as though it has the perspective of a century's distance on the events of the last decade, New York Times senior White House correspondent Baker (The Breach: Inside the Impeachment and Trial of William Jefferson Clinton, 2000, etc.) dispatches false and puerile memes—Bush stole Florida, blood for oil, Bush lied and kids died, etc.—to the dustbin of history as he delivers "the most documented history of the Bush-Cheney White House to date." The author is no Bush cheerleader; he shines a pitiless light on the failures of judgment, erroneous intelligence and excessive reliance on subordinates that led to the debacle in Iraq, which undid Bush's second term. Baker concludes that Bush "was at his best when he was cleaning up his worst." The author shows how it all went wrong, however, without a hint of partisan rancor. This briskly written but exhaustively detailed account defies expectations by portraying an administration of intelligent, patriotic adults with necessarily limited information striving to do what they believed was best for the nation in a dangerous era, with real but overlooked achievements. The president, in particular, appears as a man of decency who retained his optimism and dedication to principle as his polls declined to record lows and political allies fled. In delineating the businesslike relationship between Bush and Cheney, Baker refutes the popular notion that Cheney was the dominant figure, though Bush relied heavily on his experience during his first term. Indeed, Cheney was increasingly sidelined during the second term, except on matters of national security, where he consistently pushed against constitutional limits to defend the country from terrorists by whatever means appeared necessary. In the end, Bush's successor, after campaigning vigorously against his policies, quietly adopted many of them.
A major contribution to the rehabilitation of our 43rd president.