Standing firm that his decision to invade Iraq was the right one, revealing that he considered dropping Dick Cheney from his 2004 campaign to “demonstrate that I was in charge,” and even admitting that a televised insult from Kanye West represented the lowest point of his presidency, former President George W. Bush has put pen to paper for a memoir, Decision Points, due from Crown Publishers on Nov. 9.
Talking about the book in his first TV interview since leaving the Oval Office, Bush met with NBC’s Today show co-anchor Matt Lauer in Midland, Texas, from his childhood home and church, and from Centennial Park.
“I faced a lot of criticism as President. I didn’t like hearing people claim that I lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction or cut taxes to benefit the rich. But the suggestion that I was racist because of the response to [Hurricane] Katrina represented an all-time low,” Bush writes, and which Lauer reads back to him in the interview, which will air on Monday, Nov. 8, at 8 p.m. ET as a special Matt Lauer Reports. Bush will also appear live on Today Wednesday Nov. 10.
“Yeah. I still feel that way,” Bush tells Lauer about the moment West said, during the Concert for Hurricane Relief, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
“As you read those words,” Bush tells Lauer, “I felt ’em when I heard ’em, felt ’em when I wrote ’em and I felt ’em when I’m listening to ’em.”
Asks Lauer: “I wonder if some people are going to read that, now that you’ve written it, and they might give you some heat for that. And the reason is this –”
“Don’t care,” insists Bush.
“Well, here’s the reason,” continues Lauer. “You’re not saying that the worst moment in your presidency was watching the misery in Louisiana. You’re saying it was when someone insulted you because of that.”
But Bush holds firm that Kanye West hurt him the most, adding, “I also make it clear that the misery in Louisiana affected me deeply as well. There’s a lot of tough moments in the book. And it was a disgusting moment, pure and simple.”
His 1976 DUI
In another revealing passage, Lauer points out, “You write in the book about Labor Day Weekend 1976 You’d been drinking heavily. I think you called it an Aussie kind of drinking.”
Bush picks up the story from there. “I’m going 10 miles an hour, both wheels on the sidewalk. And I get pulled over by Calvin, the local policeman, plead guilty, paid my fine.”
“DUI,” says Lauer. “You didn’t tell anybody. I mean, I guess the person closest to you knew. But it’s not a story you related to anyone of importance for a very long time.”
“Yeah,” says Bush. ” I mean everybody knew for a while, it didn’t matter. And then, all of a sudden, I’m in politics, and my girls are getting ready to drive. And I make the decision not to go public with this story because I didn’t want them to say, ‘Hey, Dad did it, and so can I.’ I mean I was worried about them driving and drinking. And it was – I made a huge political mistake, and a miscalculation.”
Looking back, Bush calls his desire to remain mum about the DUI “one of the top stupidest decisions I made. Was really a bad choice. And if I had to do it – look, you don’t get to do it over again. But if I had to do it over again, of course I would have disclosed. I mean there was nothing to hide. I – yeah, I drank too much. I had been pulled over. And I quit. It was a good story with a good ending, poorly timed.”