Once Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana and Mississippi areas, it became a nationwide tragedy that was quickly overshadowed by a discussion about then-President George W. Bush, his passiveness toward the victims and, of all people, Kanye West.
During a televised American Red Cross concert fundraiser for Katrina victims, West abruptly said, “George Bush doesn’t like black people.”
There was no immediate response from Bush or his administration.
However, five years later, during a book tour for his recently released “Decision Points,” the former president revealed that West’s remark left a strong impression on him.
“I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now,” Bush said to NBC “Today Show” anchor Matt Lauer in an interview. “I resent it. It’s not true, and it was one of the most disgusting moments of my presidency.”
“Decision Points” consists of 400-plus pages shaped around important decisions Bush encountered during his eight-year presidency, including his decisions on the drinking age, Iraq, Afghanistan and, of course, Hurricane Katrina.
The problem with Bush’s memoir is that it’s not really a memoir. The book is an explanation of his presidency, and one might hope it would include an apology to the United States people – but it doesn’t.
James Hilty, the acting dean of the Ambler Campus and a history professor, said presidents don’t write their memoirs to apologize.
“Presidents rarely, if ever, apologize for their actions,” Hilty said. “Memoirs written after leaving office are invariably explanations and elaborations, not apologies.”
“The purpose of a presidential memoir is to solidify their place in history and to build on their legacy,” Hilty added.
“Decision Points” is exactly that – an extension of the Bush presidency and legacy. Although it provides a firsthand look at his presidency, the book solidifies an image of what Bush would like U.S. citizens to think of him.
But what exactly is that image?
Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley described “Decision Points” as “calm, deliberative, reasonable, open-minded, God-fearing, loyal, trustworthy [and] patriotic.”
“Despite the eagerness of Mr. Bush to portray himself as a forward-leaning, resolute leader, this volume sometimes has the effect of showing the former president as both oddly passive and strangely cavalier,” New York Times book critic Michiko Kakutani wrote.
Bush, however, sees himself as “the Decider,” and seems to believe every choice he made was an important one. He writes in the introduction, “I want to give readers a perspective on decision making in a complex environment. Many of the decisions that reach the president’s desk are tough calls, with strong arguments on both sides.”
Yet, the book is also Bush’s attempt at becoming human. Instead of presenting himself as an ex-president, he tries to portray himself as another everyday U.S. citizen, who’s made mistakes, like anyone else.
At the same time, he still seems to want readers to know his job was harder than it looked: He emphasized he was under a lot of pressure and had to make tough decisions in addition to pleasing everyone in the nation.
Either way, Bush’s representation of himself isn’t convincing enough for people to be interested. After two years of being out of the public eye, the U.S. seems to have lost interest in trying to figure out the reasoning behind his decisions, and the American people want to move on.
Samantha Byles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.