Bush's Book of Excuses

By Dan Froomkin
10:20 AM ET, 03/19/2009

Former president George W. Bush is already hard at work trying to explain himself.

Bush first told a Canadian audience on Tuesday that he intends to write a book about his 12 "toughest" decisions.

Yesterday, he told Hillel Italie of the Associated Press that he's already written about 30,000 words: "'I want people to understand the environment in which I was making decisions. I want people to get a sense of how decisions were made and I want people to understand the options that were placed before me,' Bush said during a brief telephone interview Wednesday with The Associated Press from his office in Dallas.

"Bush's book, tentatively (not decisively) called Decision Points, is scheduled for a 2010 release by Crown....

"Instead of telling his life story, Bush will concentrate on about a dozen personal and presidential choices, from giving up drinking to picking Dick Cheney as his vice president to sending troops to Iraq. He will also write about his relationship with family members, including his father, the first President Bush, his religious faith and his highly criticized response to Hurricane Katrina."

This would technically be Bush's second book. His first, titled A Charge to Keep, was ghost-written by adviser Karen Hughes in 1999.

Italie writes: "Bush told the AP on Wednesday that he was not 'comfortable with the first book, only because it seemed rushed,' and that his current memoir would have 'a lot more depth,' thanks to his years as president. Although he didn't keep a diary while in the White House — he 'jotted' down the occasional note — he said he began Decision Points just two days after leaving the White House...

"Bush said the book would include self-criticism, 'Absolutely, yes,' but cautioned that 'hindsight is very easy' and that he would make sure readers could view events as he saw them."

Some decisions may be off limits. "Asked if he might write about the ouster of his first defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, or about his decision not to pardon Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, choices both openly disputed by Cheney, Bush said he didn't know.

"'I made a lot of decisions,' he said."

Bush told Italie he had "skimmed" former president Bill Clinton's memoirs -- and hasn't read either of President Obama's books.

Motoko Rich writes in the New York Times: "According to Robert B. Barnett, the Washington lawyer who negotiated the deal with Crown on Mr. Bush's behalf," the former president "has no collaborator, but he's working with his former chief speech writer Christopher Michel."

Tirdad Derakhshani writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer that the book sounds like "a cross between a memoir and a ruler's how-to book (like Governing for Dummies? Or maybe more like Marcus Aurelius' Meditations?)."

Bush's comments on Tuesday, as I wrote in this post yesterday, indicate that his memoir will be heavy on revisionist self-justification, at least when it comes to his decision to sanction torture.

Rob Gillies of the Associated Press quoted Bush as saying on Tuesday: "I want people to understand what it was like to sit in the Oval Office and have them come in and say we have captured Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, the alleged killer of a guy named Danny Pearl because he was simply Jewish, and we think we have information on further attacks on the United States."

But Bush initially sanctioned torture about a year before Mohammed's capture, and there's never been any evidence corroborating Mohammed's involvement in Pearl's murder -- other than Mohammed's confession, which came after, not before, he was tortured.

There's the distinct possibility that Bush's book, when it comes out, won't actually sell much. But it will inevitably inspire a lot of jokes.

That process, in fact, has already begun. Here's TV host Jimmy Fallon last night, via U.S. News: "George Bush is writing a book. No, that's not the joke. It's a serious book about the 12 toughest decisions he made as President. It's called 'The Ten Toughest Decisions I Made As President.' It's...a good book. It's a pop-up book."

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