Bob Woodward's State of Denial is the hottest book in the country right now. It details the infighting, disarray, and mistakes made by the Bush war council during the Iraq war. The third in the famous reporter's portraits of George Bush, it is also the longest. Slate's reading guide fast-forwards you straight to the juicy parts. Want to know where to go to read accounts of Donald Rumsfeld's every flaw? Do you wonder about Bush's decision-making abilities? How does former CIA Director George Tenet come out? Grab a copy and read along.
Page 1: Though the Bush family maintains that father and son never talk about issues more substantive than fishing, the book starts with the first President Bush calling his old friend Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the longtime Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, in the fall of 1997. Bush's son, the governor of Texas, is thinking about running for president and he needs a tutor. Gov. Bush later tells Bandar: "I don't have the foggiest idea about what I think about international, foreign policy."
Prince Bandar, Superhero
Page 5: Bandar is not only helpful understanding geopolitics, he's also like the Sun Tzu of the Sahara. "In the big boys' game," he says of presidency, "it's cutthroat, it's bloody and it's not pleasant." Apparently Bandar has been watching too much Kojak.
Page 28: Bandar has range. He helped free American hostages held in China after the downing of a Navy EP-3 spy plane.
Page 47: Bandar also knows Yiddish! Describing Arafat for Bush, he says: "He's a liar. We know that. You know that. He's a schmuck. But he is the only schmuck we have to deal with."
Page 76: Bandar could also play rough. The Saudi royal family threatened to cut off diplomatic ties to Bush because they believed that he was too close to Israel and its leader Ariel Sharon. "The Crown Prince will not communicate in any form, type or shape with you," Bandar told Bush. "And Saudi Arabia will take all its political, economic and security decisions based on how it sees its own interest in the region … because it is obvious that the United States has taken a strategic decision adopting Sharon's policy."
Page 288: Bandar helps out in the end. After Bush agrees to tone down rhetoric about the need for reform in Saudi Arabia, he asks if Saudi Arabia can help purchase helicopters for Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. Bandar says yes.
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