Rather than extensively explain and defend his ideology, Bush seems to do the opposite. Bush’s greatest legislative achievements are things he worked on with Democrats—education reform with Ted Kennedy (about whom Bush is effusive with praise), a Medicare prescription-drug entitlement, large increases in aid to combat HIV and malaria in Africa. So intent is he to prove he is not a right-wing ideologue that he actually muses about reforming the entire political system to eliminate those on the political “extremes.” He says his “preference” in 2008 was McCain, but if he has any problems with Obama whatsoever, they are not mentioned. (During the campaign, I recall Bush saying: “This is a dangerous world, and this cat [Obama] isn’t remotely qualified to handle it. This guy has no clue, I promise you.”)…

Which brings us to some questionable judgment calls. For one, Bush relates a story in which his father is hospitalized after an operation and repeatedly asks his nurse, “Are my testicles black?” When the nurse looks baffled, the elder Bush then asks, “Are my test results back?” and dissolves in laughter. One wonders if this is the kind of quote that Bush 41 wants to live on in posterity. Then there is a strange scene where Bush drives his mother to the hospital after a miscarriage. Bush reports that his mother shows him the fetus of his deceased sibling in a jar. Then, a little more uncomfortably, he shares with us that while at the hospital, the 16-year-old Bush was improbably assumed to be his mother’s husband. All this begs the question of whether there was anyone around willing to challenge Bush on disclosures like this…

As someone who worked for the Bush administration for five years, I find myself conflicted about this book. On one hand, there are many historic accomplishments of which the president and those who worked for him can justifiably be proud—his brave, determined response to the 9/11 attacks, his successful efforts to protect the homeland when future attacks seemed inevitable, his compassionate, laudable efforts to help the diseased, suffering and troubled, and his almost singlehanded drive to salvage a dire situation in Iraq, a country that defying all predictions appears to be on the path to prosperity and peace. Alas, little of this is explored with any novelty or depth. It was as if people assembled some facts from magazine articles and then attached a few anecdotes, only some of them colorful.