George W. Bush, the self proclaimed “decider” was elected President after an extremely close election and controversial Supreme Court decision. He came to the Oval Office as Governor of Texas, a state widely known as having the weakest executive office in the country. He presided during the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and soon after started a preemptive war in Iraq based on faulty intelligence and a preconceived desire for war. Bush, Vice President Cheney and others authorized multiple forms of torture of enemy combatants.

A born again Christian, Bush relied on his religious faith and advice from his closest advisors and actively avoided serious debate amongst experts when making important decisions. Given these proclivities, it’s no surprise he committed the most serious foreign policy blunder in US history and is widely viewed as one of the United States’ worst presidents.

President Bush spent much of his two terms fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa. His ability to get congress to commit over $30 billion to the effort undoubtedly saved hundreds of thousands of African lives. He persuaded a reluctant Republican congress to bail out the financial and auto industry saving thousands of American jobs and likely averting a depression.

Despite the disastrous unnecessary war in Iraq and all it brought, his commitment to Africa and his respect for President-elect Obama during the transition helped me to grow fond of President Bush while reading Smith’s biography. Professor Smith’s work is thorough, balanced and readable.