George W Bush remains probably the most controversial figure in recent history. The quasi-medical term “Bush Derangement Syndrome” describes the condition in which perfectly rational people become irrational on the subject of the 43rd President of the United States. The vilest abuse of him will get a cheer from some in the media. He also has his defenders: there is money to be made from merchandise bearing Mr Bush’s face and the slogan “Miss Me Yet?”
This blog tries hard to be as non-political, or at least as non-partisan, as possible, so it is not our place to comment on his policies or his Administration – suffice it is to say that, like any politician, he has entries on both sides of the ledger, and the final accounting may not be complete for some time.
However, it is worth noting, as yet another example of how poorly we are served by the mainstream media, that their cartoon image of Mr Bush’s personal character is grossly inaccurate. They persist in portraying him as a semi-literate playboy when the facts – should anyone be interested in them – are that Mr Bush came to the Presidency as a well-educated bookworm with a wide-ranging and, eventually, very successful career in private business to his credit.
It is also worth noting that, for a man who is supposed to be unintelligent, Mr Bush has written a singularly intelligent book, Decision Points – which we recommend very strongly to entrepreneurs, less for its political content than for the insights it gives into economics and leadership at the highest level.
Anyone who is still determined to buy into the media caricature can, of course, retreat into conspiracy theories about “ghost writers”. There is simply no convincing them. Nevertheless, one of the most telling indicators of authenticity is that Mr Bush, a graduate of Harvard Business School’s notoriously tough MBA programme, gives a brilliantly concise one-sentence summary of what he learnt on the course:
“I came away with a better understanding of management, particularly the importance of setting clear goals for an organization, delegating tasks, and holding people to account.”
Whether Mr Bush’s own Administration lived up to those principles is for history to decide, but the principles themselves are sound. The current Administration – in which the lack of private business experience has already had a noticeable effect – would do well to adopt them. America needs clear goals, delegation to people who understand their business, and, above all, those people being held to account.