Days of Fire, by Peter Baker

Peter Baker is a reporter at the Times. He’s somehow managed to write a book with scenes of every important moment of the Bush presidency as if he were part of the deliberations himself. We get a view of how Cheney in the White House reacted on the day of 9/11; the internal deliberations of invading Iraq; the frustration over Katrina; the crisis precipitated by Ashcroft’s refusal to authorize metadata surveillance; the nominations of Roberts and Alito; planning the surge; the dynamics of how Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell worked together; and a lot more. It was enthralling.

Baker takes pains to stress how Bush was not subservient to Cheney. The beginning and of the book are dedicated to exploring that relationship, and Bush’s growing independence from his vice president is a central theme throughout the book.

I never read books about politics, but this is a good one. Every page was filled with reporting, and there isn’t really a great deal of analysis. You’ll learn so much beyond the headlines you saw not too long ago.

My single favorite paragraph is this, about the post-invasion planning for Iraq:

A twenty-four-year-old who worked at a real estate firm had never been to the Middle East was assigned to rebuild the stock exchange. An army officer busied himself rewriting Iraq’s traffic laws by cutting and pasting from Maryland’s code. A twenty-one-year old who had yet to finish college and whose most significant job had been ice-cream truck driver was among those charged with purging the Interior Ministry of militia members.