George W. Bush's memoir "Decision Points" isn't even officially available for sale until tomorrow. But that hasn't stopped quite a few readers from getting hold of copies. And of course now that the former president is starting to make the rounds of the talk shows, more and more of what's contained in his book has become common knowledge.
What are the most interesting revelations so far? I've been most intrigued by the following eight glimpses into the mind of Bush 43:
1. The former president does acknowledge some mistakes. On Katrina: “As leader of the federal government, I should have recognized the deficiencies sooner and intervened faster.” On Iraq: “[W]e did not respond more quickly or aggressively when the security situation started to deteriorate after Saddam’s regime fell.” Also: “[C]utting troop levels too quickly was the most important failure of execution in the war.” He also admits to having been "blindsided" a number of times during his presidency. On Abu Ghraib: "I had no idea how graphic or grotesque the photos [of abuse in the prison] would be.” On the 2008 financial crisis: "I assumed any major credit troubles would have been flagged by the regulators or rating agencies.”
2. Bush says that he had “planned to make a change at Defense as part of a new national security team” in 2006, but could not find a replacement for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. (It was finally an old school friend serving as a presidential adviser who recommended Robert M. Gates as a replacement.)
3. Bush says that he considered dropping Vice President Dick Cheney from the ticket in 2004 (perhaps replacing him with then-Senate majority leader Bill Frist of Tennessee). It was a suggestion made by Cheney himself, that Bush eventually rejected.
4. Bush's mother, Barbara, once showed him the fetus in a jar after she suffered a devastating miscarriage – an event which later helped Bush to solidify his pro-life stance on abortion.
5. Bush has no regrets about the use of "waterboarding" by American interrogators."We only used the technique on three people," he says. "We gained valuable information to protect the country, and it was the right thing to do, as far as I'm concerned."
7. Bush says that the most painful moment of his presidency occurred when Kanye West – upset by what he perceived as the White House's failure to act quickly to aid the victims of hurricane Katrina – said on an NBC telethon that Bush “doesn’t care about black people.”
8. When John McCain announced in 2008 that he was suspending his presidential campaign to attend a White House meeting on rescuing the economy it came as a complete surprise to Bush. He hadn’t yet agreed to convene any such meeting.
The Monitor will be running its review of "Decision Points" later this week.
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.