Making the Tough Call

August 22, 2011


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I bought President Bush’s autobiography, Decision Points, a while ago and during some quiet time over the Fourth of July weekend had an opportunity to read it.

Decision Points Cover

It was obvious that President Bush wrote the book himself.  It included many wonderful, personal stories about him, his courtship of Laura, his drinking problem in his early years, and his very strong, loving relationship with this mother and dad.

I was anxious to learn about the background for his decision to invade Iraq, in search of weapons of mass destruction, since none were found after the fall of the country.  

Bush said he relied on the strong recommendation of the NIE, National Intelligence Estimate, that emphatically stated that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions.  If left unchecked, he believed Iraq would have had a nuclear weapon during this decade. 

In the fall of 2002, Congress supported his congressional war resolution.  The Senate passed it 77 to 23, the House 296 to 133.  Later that fall, the UN Security Council passed a similar war resolution unanimously, 15 to nothing.

Reports of Iraq’s WMD continued to pour in from around the world.  When Bush made the decision to invade, he wrote: “Given everything we knew, allowing Saddam to stay in power would have amounted to an enormous gamble.  I would have had to bet that either every major intelligence agency was wrong or that Saddam would have a change of heart.  After seeing the horror of 9/11, that was not a chance I was willing to take.  Military action was my last resort.  But, I believed it was necessary.”

My major learning from reading Decision Points was the great difficulty the President had in gaining consensus from his White House staff and his cabinet on major decisions that confronted him.  

Frequently, his team ended up with conflicting recommendations, leaving the final decision to the President himself. 

As we know, he was willing to make some tough calls – mostly without the full support of his team.  Many decisions were good and he freely admits that some were not.  But he made the call and he stuck to it.  

While many Americans are still critical of the President’s decision, after reading the book, I believe history will be more kind to him for his strong leadership. 

I’d love to hear what you’re reading this summer.  Send me some recommendations.  

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.


 P.S. Here's what you've been reading.  It's compiled from your comments. -- Bill 

"Nothing to Fear" by Adam Cohen; "Try Known and Unknown" by Donald Rumsfeld; "The Miracle of Freedom: 7 Tipping Points that Saved the World" by Chris Stewart; "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot; “Lion In the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt” by Aida Donald; "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett; "The Kennedy Legacy" by Edward "Ted" Kennedy; "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand; "1421 - The Year That China Discovered America" by Gavin Menzies; "The Mastery of Love" by Don Miguel Ruiz; "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor E. Frankl; "Cleopatra" by Stacy Schiff; "Goodbye To A River" by John Graves; "The Innocent Man" by John Grisham; "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett; "Abraham Lincoln" by James M. McPherson; "The Ark of Millions of Years" by E.J. Clark and B. Alexander Agnew; "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese; "Enchantment" by Guy Kawasaki; "John Adams" by David McCullough; "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald; "Beyond Basketball" by Mike Krzyzewski.

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Mr. Marriott, I would recommend a book called "between terror and tourism" about a elder man from Florida who decides to treck from Cairo to Rabat across North Africa by foot, discovering cultures and history along the way. Also the Alchemist is fantastic, by Paolo Coelho. Happy Reading!

pls if u can make little time and read The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone by shashi tharoor
regards jobby george

Mr. Marriott, Please read "Until Tuesday" by Luis Carlos Montalvan. I believe it will help you understand why former Captain Montalvan was so distraught when he first checked into the Denver South Marriott for the Invisible Disabilities Awards Banquet this evening. I live within ten minutes of two Marriott hotels in Lancaster, PA, where our families stay when they visit. Please make certain that employees in all your hotels are well educated about the Americans with Disabilities Act. Thank you.

Hello Mr Marriot,

I will like to recommend the book 'In pursue of His Glory by R T Kendell.

Mr. Marriott,
I bought Presidents Bush's book as a Christmas present for my husband this past year. It too was his vacation reading material and he shared much with me. We supported our President then and now and know that President Bush lives with every decision he had to make for our country. Thank you for your opinion also. Warm regards,

I have been reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (for the third time) and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. :)

Dear Mr. Marriott, I just finished "7 days on the links in Utopia, Golf's Sacred Journey" by David L. Cook. Now a movie with Robert Duvall.
Beautiful life-giving message!

Bill, it was a pleasure to run into you at the Cambridge, MA Marriott a couple of weeks ago. You are a true inspiration to keep working at what you love. It is also inspiring to see you at the front end of the business, gaining personal insight into your business, listening to employees closest to the customer, and discussing service with customers directly. I'm sure you value this interaction in making tough decisions. Relative to Pres. Bush's book, and his decisions on Iraq, the NIE and top IC organizations were in serious trouble mode at the time. Personally I believe a little more front line input might have provided Pres. Bush with better insight to make some very tough decisions. Thanks for your informative blog.

Dear Mr. Marriott,

Thank you for providing some insights in the former President's book.

For someone interested in US foreign policy, I highly recommend "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" by John Perkins. A truly amazing read which provides a great (not always flattering) insiders perspective into ideas/motives behind many US foreign policy decisions.

Oh, please. Bush fabricated the entire WMD argument, and the facts bear that out. Only die-hard right-wingers (apparently including you) believe the revisionist history W. spews.

Hi Mr. Marriott,

"If You Give A Mouse A Cookie."

It may be a children's book, but I thought about it the other day, and I believe it relates extremely well to the hospitality industry. It goes a little something like this," If you give a mouse a cookie, he's gonna want some milk. If you give the mouse some milk, he's gonna want a napkin!" It continues in this manner through the end of the book. Replace mouse with guest, and you begin to see the limitless applications unravel. If you give a guest a rollaway bed, he's gonna want some blankets, once he has his blankets he'll realize he needs pillows for his head! Silly, but it's actually helped me to anticipate the needs of our guests here at the Irvine Marriott time and time again. Take care Bill keep up the good work

Mr. Marriott,
Thank you for being so open and honest with your thoughts about a topic that can be very controversial. As an associate who has worked with the company for over 15 years, I know that the culture created by you and your father is the reason why this continues to be such a wonderful journey. When leading an organization as large as Marriott, it must also be difficult to gain consensus on the challenges we face. I am proud to call you "our leader" and know that when faced with these challenges you strive to do what is right! These decisions may not always stand the test of time, however through our companies innovations and adaptability to change, we are always improving on the great foundation we have. Thank you for making us proud!

I agree in whole with your comments concerning President Bush. Our leaders can only rely on information provided to them by their inner circle and have to make decisions on that information.
Well written.

Mr. Marriott:

I have been reading two excellent books this summer. I read Glenn Beck's "Broke" and Ann Coulter's "Demonic". I love political commentary books. I enjoy digesting the information they provide. Decision Points is definitely on my list of Books to Read. Thanks for the review!

Hi Mr Marriott

Wolf of the Plains, and Epic that you will not be able to put down; based on the history of Genghis Khan.

I hope you are well! I had the pleasure of meeting you as an associate on your visit to Marbella in 97/98. I have recently re joined the company after 10 years out in real estate and development. Currently Sales Manager for MVCI AP in Singapore. It's fun and like coming back home!!
I enthuse you to read the book, part of a trilogy that will keep you gripped for weeks...i promise!
All the Best
Mike Kirkham

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Decision Point. Originally from Texas, I was aware of the Bush drinking "issue." In fact, I have seen pictures of the said "issue." It is nice to know he brought it up.

I also agree with you about history being kind to Bush. I see this happening already. When he was in office, the press was harsh and was always questioning him. It seems people have lightened up over the years.

As far as books go, I read so much for my job I have a tendency to kick back with a good James Patterson book in my free time. He has authored over 140 best sellers, but you have to like criminal fiction. Although, I did enjoy Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. It, however, is not light reading but very good none-the-less.

Dear Bill,
I have recently been reading about your company its ethos and environmental statements and goals. I now have come across your blog. I am based here in the UK and have found myself drawn to the strong sense of purpose that a leader has to purvey. It is therefore, not lightly or without thought that I make a few observations and comment in response.

It is firstly good to read of George W. Bush's resolve to deal with extremely tough decisions and your respectful acknowledgment of that fact. He and all leaders must be admired for that and I am glad that as you say, time may look more kindly on him. Hopefully common sense prevails.

We as a society have to bear our own sense of responsibility, as with great power comes great responsibility and our votes and the system and beliefs we uphold mean we agree to abide by the collective responsibility we bestow on our elected leaders. Lest we forget that is our independence.

A growing amount of people appear to be keen to have selective responsibility and many change their opinions to the fashion of the day. We currently seem to be haunted here in the UK by the consequences, not, I should say from my perspective, in any manner, that it was wrong. I believe our respective leaders were right with the information they had at the time and their strong sense of duty and belief to make that call.

What I do find difficult is the almost inevitable manner in which our society and media is driven to find and promote negativity. To take it to a whole new personal level of criticism and protract out a which hunt on those individuals we empowered at the time to make those decisions and portray them to the populace as bad people who politically hungered for power.

We are like many other countries feeling the pinch from economic confidence, which seems to in a lot of people bring out the worst, which unfortunately the media feed on and create a self fulfilling mood of doubt which in my opinion exacerbates not helps the situation.

I believe it is right to look at our history and take heed of any lessons however, it is more important to grasp the situation, accept the position we all find ourselves in and get on to make things better. It is never truer to me as a past highly competitive rower that “when the going gets tough the tough get going” It is this resolve and strength of character which is needed in all of us never more so than in our leaders. We need more strong leaders in all aspects of political, business, media and social life.

I hope more and more of us look forward with positivity and grasp and cherish what we have and don’t take things for granted.

On your request for any good books I am reading, I have two great books. I have recently re-read this summer and had the benefit of learning from, these are; “Buffett-The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein and Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

Best wishes

Clive R Smith
An admirer of what two generations have created at Marriott

Bill: I read the president's book also. talk about candor and frankness. we all make mistakes but it's a rare politician that admits it without being coerced. i believe that he's a man of integrity and that's incredibly important to me when we're talking politics. armchair quarterbacks always think they know best but are rarely privy to all the facts and options. your assessment is correct.

Thank you Mr. Marriott...
well said, and I concur, history will be kinder to President Bush when it is all said and done. I felt much safer under his watch than the present person in office.

Dear Mr. Marriott

For me Empire of Debt by Bill Bonner and Addison Wiggin. Very interesting and definitly on time.

Dear Mr. Marriott

For me Empire of Debt by Bill Bonner and Addison Wiggin. Very interesting and definitly on time.

may i suggest in honor of the centennial of naval aviation the book:
pioneer of flight


Dear Mr. Marriott - I'm a basketball junkie and I'm reading Duke coach Krzyzeneki's motivational book "Beyond Basketball." My other annual summer read is "The Great Gatsby." BBE - Best Book Ever.

Mr. Marriott,
I'd like to recommend "Cheng Ji Si Han" to you, it's a biographic, too. But not sure whether there's an English version. "Cheng Ji Si Han" is the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty in ancient China.

I'm a Marriott staff in Shanghai, China.

Dear Mr. Marriott:

I really do admire your openness to post such a blog, and your very objective perspective. A well needed attribute in our society, the coin has two side. Does it not Mr. Marriott? There is the politics of politics, and then there is just politics. Many a time the non-politician gets the two interwoven and leadership do not get their due merit or is given undue merit.

Mr. Marriott, you know being an American President is not a piece of cake, and if one truly examine the Bush presidency, they would understand he had to profess his faith. No worldly efforts or material contributions could have sustained a man through the tribulations he went through, one after another. Whether it was his decision or not and with very little grand applause and a very vigilant media and vocal public, he saw the presidency through it’s entire 8 years.

My opinion changed of him when I visited the White House for the celebration of his signing of the “National Museum of African American History and Culture Act.” We were thoroughly amazed and elated with his strong sense of humor. He made us all feel so relaxed, an onlooker would have had a hard time believing what a good time we had. From that time, I closely followed his presidency and was very happy I did. It gave a perspective that the media nor any book can give.

In short, I say he was certainly chosen.

My favorite is “Lion In the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt” by Aida Donald.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt