The Bush administration left a lot of people disappointed and angry. That said, give senior administration officials credit for trying their hand at searching, non-mailed-in political memoirs since leaving the White House two years ago. Taken together, they make a flawed presidency seem no less flawed, but certainly more interesting. Furthermore, the administration's star memoirists certainly seem to be doing a decent job repairing their public images. Well, all except one. (Have a look at the most recent addition to the corpus and you'll see what we mean.) Here's the list:

John Bolton


  • Job: United Nations ambassador
  • Notable achievement: Leonine moustache
  • Memoir: Surrender Is Not An Option (2007)
  • What they said about him then: "Damaged goods." - Barack Obama, 2005
  • What they say about him now: "Someone needs to say it now. John Bolton was right...No American Ambassador has produced more Security Council Resolutions on the issue of Iran than John Bolton. Bolton was able to produce three UN Security Council resolutions on Iran, two with the increasing pressure of sanctions. The deadlines in the resolutions that Bolton insisted upon were kept mainly because he held his counterparts to their word"- Richard Grenell, CBS (2009)

Scott McClellan



  • Job: Press Secretary
  • Notable achievement: Not liking the Iraq war anymore
  • Memoir: What Happened (2008)
  • What they said about him then: "When briefings get tense, McClellan's voice can become robotic, as if he's a hostage reading a statement. His body language can betray unease: He starts blinking rapidly and he clenches his shoulders as an interrogator unfurls a question." - Mark Leibovitch, The Washington Post (2005)
  • What they say about him now: "I do feel a certain compassion for McClellan after reading a book that is full of regret, soul-searching, and shame. McClellan certainly isn't presenting himself as a hero for finally coming out against policies he once advocated. If he'd left in the middle of the CIA leak scandal, he would have given an enormous gift to the president's political opponents." - John Dickerson, Slate (2008)

Tom Ridge


  • Job: Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Notable achievement: Color-coded terror alerts
  • Memoir: Test of Our Times (2009)
  • What they said about him then: "Nobody in America makes me feel more insecure than Tom Ridge.The man who is supposed to restore my confidence in the prospect of my safety gives me the uneasy sense that the door's unlocked, the alarm's off and there's a ladder leaning up against the house." - Maureen Dowd, The New York Times (2003)
  • What they say about him now: "The basic issue is this: Tom Ridge, he of the color-coded terror alerts, has now confirmed what many of us suspected all along: that declarations of a higher threat level were called for political purposes, so as to step on Democratic messages or divert attention from Republican scandals...By 2004 the Bush administration already had an extensive record in many areas where fact-checking was easy, from budget policy to environmental policy. And it was clear from any serious analysis of that record that the Bush people consistently relied on lies and misinformation to sell their policies, consistently abused power for political gain." - Paul Krugman, The New York Times (2009)

John Yoo


  • Job: Deputy Assistant Attorney General
  • Notable achievement: Waterboarding
  • Memoir: Crisis and Command (2010)
  • What they said about him then: "The fact that John Yoo is a Professor of Law at Berkeley and is treated as a respectable, serious expert by our media institutions, reflects the complete destruction over the last eight years of whatever moral authority the United States possessed." - Glenn Greenwald, Salon (2008)
  • What they say about him now: "[Crisis and Command] reveals how the Bush war on terror, far from overstepping constitutional bounds, was rooted in a tradition that reaches back to George Washington himself. Mr. Yoo does not set out to vindicate himself personally, but it is hard not to read his analysis without feeling that much of the anti-Bush rhetoric of recent years—not to mention its anti-Yoo variety—has been grounded in ignorance as much as outrage." - Arthur Herman, The Wall Street Journal (2010). It's worth noting, of course, that Glenn Greenwald's opinion probably hasn't changed that much.

George W. Bush



  • Job: President of the United States
  • Memoir: Decision Points (2010)
  • What they said about him then: "I think [Bush] is a bully, and, like all bullies, he’s a coward when confronted with a force that he’s fearful of. His reaction to the extravagant and unbelievably selfish wish list of the wealthy interest groups that put him in the White House is obsequious. The degree of obsequiousness that is involved in saying ‘yes, yes, yes, yes, yes’ to whatever these people want, no matter the damage and harm done to the nation as a whole—that can come only from genuine moral cowardice." - Al Gore (2004)
  • What they say about him now: "As I read on, trapped in the sketchy carelessness of this presidency, I was surprised by how angry I didn't become. For me, at least, weariness has replaced anger. Bush's was an exhausting presidency that will, I suspect, be remembered more for its waste — of time, lives, money, moral standing and economic strength — than for anything else." - Joe Klein, Time (2010)

Donald Rumsfeld



  • Job: Secretary of Defense
  • Notable achievement: Iraq, before the surge
  • Memoir: Known and Unknown (2011)
  • What they said about him then: "I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history." - John McCain (2007)
  • What they say about him now: "There's little to be said for this book, which stands to mark Rumsfeld as not only the most destructive secretary of defense in American history (a title already bestowed by many) but also the most mendacious political memoirist." - Fred Kaplan, Slate (2011)