Bush memoir says he admits to mistakes

Former U.S. president George W. Bush releases his book Decision Points, a memoir that recounts mistakes made during his eight years in the White House.

Ex-U.S. president says greatest achievement is lack of post-9/11 attacks

Former U.S. president George W. Bush's book Decision Points was released Tuesday, and recounts many mistakes he feels he made during his eight years in the White House.

Former president George W. Bush waves as he signs copies of his book, Decision Points, at a store near his Dallas home on Tuesday.

Bush, who once said in a presidential debate that he couldn't think of a single mistake he had made, lists many.

Bush counts the years without a post-9/11 attack as his transcendent achievement, but writes about being blindsided, shocked and stunned about such events as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the financial crisis.

He writes that he cut troop levels in Iraq too quickly. He says he misjudged the severity of the economic downturn in his final months as president, believing the United States still might avoid a recession even as "the house of cards was about to come tumbling down."

"The decider," as he called himself in the White House, says the fallout over the government's response to Hurricane Katrina "cast a cloud" over his second term.

"The problem was not that I made the wrong decisions," he argues. "It was that I took too long to decide." He says he should have acted sooner to order an evacuation and send troops, and did not show adequate empathy for victims.

He says the economic calamity he handed off to Barack Obama was "one ugly way to end a presidency."

And he feels the Patriot Act was poorly named, because it implied that those who opposed it were unpatriotic.

Back in spotlight

Up until this week, Bush has given little more than the occasional innocuous speech, tending toward the political centre and helping with Haiti earthquake relief.

In this 2006 photo, George W. Bush speaks about Gulf Coast reconstruction in Mississippi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Bush lists his response to Katrina as one of his mistakes in a memoir released Tuesday. ((Larry Downing/Reuters))

Decision Points puts Bush back in the public eye. He will be all over American television this week and beyond, from news and opinion shows to Oprah Winfrey's afternoon celebrity program and Jay Leno's late-night show.

Bush started his book tour early Tuesday with a signing stop at Borders store near his Dallas home. He greeted hundreds of people, including some who said they had been waiting outside since the night before.

Bush, wearing a coat and tie and accompanied by security personnel, sat at a table to sign copies of books and chat with those who gathered to meet him.

Bush appeared on Winfrey's show Tuesday, saying he still feels "sick" that no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.  

Bush told Winfrey he doesn't criticize President Barack Obama in the book because he didn't like people criticizing him when he was president. Instead, the book praises Obama's decision to add troops in Afghanistan.

The book details difficult times with vice-president Dick Cheney, still his friend, delivering some of the buzz-generating palace intrigue that is expected of any political memoir. More is still to come with memoirs being released in January by Bush's first defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, and by Cheney himself in the spring.

Still unpopular

Bush was unpopular when he left office and he still is, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll in September. In the survey, 55 per cent looked at him unfavourably and 51 per cent blamed him for the economic crisis that began on his watch.

He says he will not be around to hear history's ultimate verdict, and he is fine with that. But he offers this to the jury: "Commentators who once denounced President [Ronald] Reagan as a dunce and a warmonger talk about how the Great Communicator had won the Cold War."

During an NBC interview with Matt Lauer Monday, he was relaxed and conversational in an interview with few tough questions.

"I served, I gave it my all, and I'm a content man," he said.

With files from CBC News