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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It is very interesting the Reagan's administration, which was with many tough and critical decisions, where it depends who is on backyard...
I am talking about Central America and Mr. Reagan Deciding whether allowing the comunist to get into this area...fight the Sandinistas, which were manipulated by Cuba...Now there is a new challenge...Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba...and Gadhafi coming to our continent... USA more than ever before has to play a critical role with these three countries, who are playing to be democratic but what they are just dictators...Ah do not forget Ecuador and Bolivia....
USA has to ally to Costa Rica Panama, Colombia,Chile, Paraguay, El Salvador, Uruguay, Brasil...Do not forget Honduras, which was free of another Daniel Ortega or Hugo Chaves....
I believe USA will not give up.

George Bush made tough decisions and rightfully so, there is not one President that did not walk in his shoes. President Bush will be remembered kindly. It is no matter whether he was Democratic or Republican.

Mr. Marriott,
I love the book share idea. I've been reading NOTHING TO FEAR by Adam Cohen. As soon as FDR got into office, he hired people who were professionals in their field of banking, agriculture and labor. He started a program for people to plant trees to help people get work. Many of his programs are here today. He did what it took to get the working class on their feet and America a better place for all.

I took my vacation to Pine Mt.and stayed at the Marriott Lodge and Spa. I drove over to Warm Springs, Georgia to see FRD's little white house. FDR and Doc started the march of dimes to help cure polio. He himself had to walk with heavy crutches but he cared about the American people and gave them courage and hope for the future. When that world war ended, it gave the example to end all wars... To me, FDR set the example.

Try Known and Unknown by Donald Rumsfeld. Amazing stuff.

This post is an example of a "tough call" someone who respects our former president I don't disagree...but for the CEO of America's biggest hospitality company, it takes guts to make sypathetic opionions of such a polarizing figure

Mr. Marriott,

I'm a long time employee of Marriott and MVCI (going on 13 years) and the main reason I've stayed with the company for so long is because of your example. I also believe the big decisions Pres. Bush made 10 years ago would be very difficult for anyone but I've always appreciated how he stuck to beliefs and never backed down.
I love the author Chris Stewart. He just came out with a new book that I highly recommend called "The Miracle of Freedom: 7 Tipping Points that Saved the World." A great companion book to his other bestseller, "Seven Miracles that Saved America."

I hope I can finally meet you when come visit us in Salt Lake City again!

Mr. Marriott. Thank you for inviting us to share books with you. I read Gray Talon Group, written and self-published by my son, Shawn D. Phillips. It is a fiction novel about military contractors in Iraq. It is a real page turner!
Proud Mom and Proud Marriott Associate

Thanks for the note Mr. Marriott! The one sided view of President Bush by so many has been taxing. Often they are comments "from the cheap seats" without really understanding how tough decisions are made. As a past Marriott employee (Management Services Div in Canada) I am still a faithful Marriott customer. I will go out of my way to stay at a Marriott family property. I am reading an interesting "non-business" but "test of morals" book titled The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks". My wife passed it along and I almost can't put it down.

Thanks for your opinion on Decision Point. George Bush is a good man and very misunderstood. I am tired of the Bush bashing in the media!Looking forward to watching the Bush/911 special on the National Geographic Channel.

Sir, I am reading many things at the moment. Mostly stuff relating to my Bachelors Degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Currently, I am reading the Homeland Security Handbook that includes Alan Orlob's piece on Marriott International property in Jakarta by David Kamien. Also, I am reading Introduction to Homeland Security.

Hello Mr Marriott,I work in Omaha in Nat'l Group Sales and have been with the company 23 years. I was on the fence about reading this book but after your blog, I've made up my mind to download it. It makes me think about what my Grandfather used to say "never judge a person unless you've walked in their shoes". Maybe if more people thought this way they wouldn't be so judgemental of President Obama either.

Dear Mr. Marriott, I, too, enjoyed "Decision Points" this summer. I admire his strong belief in this country, his family and his faith.

My recommendation for a most interesting read about perseverance and reaching goals in a uniquely challenging effort is "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken

Patricia Van Buren, AGM
Residence Inn Tallahassee

Hello Mr. Marriott,

This summer I have been reading a marvelous book called The Kennedy Legacy by Mr. Edward "Ted" Kennedy. He talks about his family and how it was a habit in them not giving up when things get tough. I highly recommend it for those who like inspiring family biographys.

Dear Mr.Marriott,

Thank you for sharing the highlights of President Bush's book with us. I didn't have much time to read this summer, but when I did I read the short graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

Ihis book is a biography of Marjane's childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. This opened my eyes to the rich history of this area and the dramatic changes that occured.

"Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" recommended to me by a fellow Marriott associate ... an amazing book by Laura Hillenbrand.

Correction: 100 years before Magellan....

I am eager to read former President Bush and agree with you that time will allow history to be fair in our evaluation of his leadership.

I am currently reading Gavin Menzies' "1421 - The Year That China Discovered America", fascinating account of how Chinese ships had reached America 70 years before Columbus and had circumnavigated the world 10 years before Magellan. They colonized America before the Europeans, transplanting the principal economic crops that have since fed and clothed the world.

Fascinating reading!

Mr. Marriott,
Great blog about the President.

Check out the book "The Mastery of Love" by Don Miguel Ruiz. It is a quick read and offers a great chance to take a look "inside"!

While doing my Loss Prevention Tour last week, I found a book left on a house keeping cart. "Man's Search for Meaning" By Viktor E. Frankl. I was able to get the full version on and listened to it over three days while working on logging lost and found items. It is amazing! Almost unbelievable. It surely changed my perspective and my own paradigm. Everyone should read or listen to this book. What courage and suffering. I cannot fathom.

The Iraq attack... Why not North Korea or Russia or Iran or many many countries who got Nuclear Weapon PLUS anti-american gouvernement. You don't need NIE suggestions to let us know that.

What have been done, have been done.

--- No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline (9781593155827)
By Brian Tracy

That helped me alot. Learned so much!!!

Read Stacy Schiff's biography "Cleopatra." You feel like you're living during that era.

I didn't have a problem with Bush taking out Saddam. I did have a problem with the "slam dunk" comment and how wrong our military advisors were in underestimating the resistance. Bush's presidency will forever be marred by IED's blowing up Marines.

I just finished reading THE HELP also and my GM tells me the movie is quite good so I do look forward to seeing it. Currently I am reading a older John Grisham book called The Innocent Man. Thoroughly enjoying this and am looking for another book in the future.

Bill, I read "Decision Points", too. I had much the same thoughts.

As for what I'm reading this summer, the list is long, but for a short refresher course on Abraham Lincoln, I can recommend the very short primer, "Abraham Lincoln" by James M. McPherson. Terrific.

The only thing I don't understand and support is why the invasion wasn't 9/12 and took 18 months to do!