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Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Damn Right!" Bush On Waterboarding Terrorists; Gave It His All

Bush On Waterboarding: "Damn Right!"

Former President George W. Bush has stayed out of politics since he left the White House and, except for his own career, he largely keeps the subject at arm's length in his new memoir, "Decision Points."

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey to air on Tuesday when the book is to be released, Bush said he is "through with politics" and refused to offer an opinion on the 2012 presidential election.

"I am not a Political Pundit. I'm really not," Bush said. "A lot is gonna happen between now and the nominating process."

He also passes on commenting on President Obama, saying he wants to treat his successor the way, "I'd like to have been treated."

"I don't think it's good for a former president to be out there opining on every darned issue," Bush told Winfrey. "He's got a plenty tough job. Trust me. And there's gonna be plenty of critics and he doesn't need me criticizing him."

In the 481-page book Bush compliments Obama's political skills during a meeting before the 2008 election as the Financial crisis was coming to a head. He also criticizes the performance of his party's nominee, John McCain, in the same meeting.

He criticizes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the failure of his efforts to Reform Immigration laws in 2006.

Bush takes responsibility for giving the go-ahead for Waterboarding terror suspects, which has touched off a new round of criticism of Bush and calls for his prosecution. He says that he did decide not to use two more extreme interrogation methods, but did not disclose what those were.

Here are excerpts from the book, which CNN obtained on Friday:

'The choice between security and values was real'

Bush reveals the decision points that led him to choose Waterboarding as an Interrogation technique.

"CIA experts drew up a list of interrogation techniques. ... At my direction, Department of Justice and CIA lawyers conducted a careful legal review. The enhanced interrogation program complied with the Constitution and all applicable laws, including those that ban torture.

"There were two that I felt went too far, even if they were legal. I directed the CIA not to use them. Another technique was Waterboarding, a process of simulated drowning. No doubt the procedure was tough, but medical experts assured the CIA that it did no lasting harm."

Though Bush confirms that he knew the use of Waterboarding would one day become public, and acknowledges that it is "sensitive and controversial," he asserts that "the choice between security and values was real," and expresses firm confidence in his decision. "Had I not authorized Waterboarding on senior al Qaeda leaders, I would have had to accept a greater risk that the country would be attacked. In the wake of 9/11, that was a risk I was unwilling to take," he writes.

Bush further declares that the new techniques proved effective, yielding information on al Qaeda's structure and operations, and leading to the capture of Ramzi bin al Shibh, the logistical planner of the 9/11 attacks who was captured on the first anniversary of 9/11.

And if there were any lingering doubts or conflict about the use of Waterboarding, Bush discloses that he received reassurance from an unlikely source: terror suspect Abu Zubaydah.

The former president writes, "His understanding of Islam was that he had to resist Interrogation only up to a certain point. Waterboarding was the technique that allowed him to reach that threshold, fulfill his religious duty, and then cooperate." Bush elaborates that Zubaydah gave him a direct instruction, "'You must do this for all the brothers.'"

Intelligence gleaned from Interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and other suspects led to the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Bush writes. During a raid on Mohammed's compound, agents discovered more plans for terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

Prompted by the discoveries, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet asked if he had permission to use enhanced interrogation techniques including waterboarding on Mohammed.

Bush exposes his inner thoughts on what led him to reach this decision: "I thought about my meeting with Danny Pearl's widow, who was pregnant with his son when he was murdered. I thought about the 2,971 people stolen from their families by al Qaeda on 9/11. And I thought about my duty to protect my country from another act of terror.

"Damn Right" I said."

An early political lesson

The president's political education is rounded out with anecdotes from early races, including a loss to state Sen. Kent Hance in a bid for a West Texas congressional seat.

Despite warnings that he was likely to lose, Bush writes that he felt compelled to run.

"I was having my first experience with the political bug, and it was biting hard." Fighting off accusations that he was "an East Coast outsider," he tried to change the conversation by running an ad showing him jogging to emphasize his "energy and youth."

Hance quickly turned the ad against him with one simple line, "'The only time folks around here go running is when somebody's chasing them.'" The experience, he writes, taught him that he was capable of moving on after a loss, and to never let his opponent define him.

An earlier Bush-Cheney ticket

Bush writes candidly about the ups and downs of his father's presidential campaigns and the personal toll they took on him. On a fishing trip during his father's third year in the White House, Bush tells of a conversation in which President George H.W. Bush briefly toyed with the idea of not standing for re-election.

Bush writes that his father's doubts were attributed to blame he felt for the intense media scrutiny his son Neil had gone through during the savings and loan crisis. But the notion is quickly forgotten when in the next paragraph Bush describes his relief "when Dad told the family he had one last race in him."

In the summer of 1992, as the presidential race was heating up, Bush expressed concern that the campaign was languishing.

"I told Dad he ought to think about a bold move to shake up the dynamics of the race," Bush writes. "One possibility was to replace Vice President Dan Quayle, whom I liked and respected, with a new running mate." Bush's suggestion was Secretary of State Dick Cheney, and although his father dismissed the idea because it would look "desperate and embarrass Dan," Bush later admits that he "never completely gave up on my idea of a Bush-Cheney ticket."

The struggles of his father's campaign effected Bush emotionally. He confesses that he felt the media were treating his father unfairly, and on a last-minute campaign trip with his father in the days before the election, he "unleashed" an angry outburst on two reporters who asked about the mood on the campaign plane. "What the press did not understand was that my outbursts were driven by love, not politics," he writes.

After his father's loss in 1992, Bush says this love turned to "pain," and then ultimately to "the itch to run for office again," and a "sense of liberation," that he was out from under his father's shadow. "I could lay out my policies without having to defend his," Bush writes. "I wouldn't have to worry that my decisions would disrupt his presidency. I was free to run my own life."

Bush writes that the loss had a similar effect on his brother Jeb, "What had first seemed like the sad end to a great story now looked like the unlikely beginning of two new careers. Had dad won in 1992, I doubt I would have run for office in 1994, and I almost certainly would not have become president."

'Marquee event' in political theater

During the battle over passage of his 2008 "financial rescue package," Bush describes a heated White House meeting between congressional leaders and both presidential candidates. Despite warnings from several of his top advisers about the effectiveness of such a meeting, the president agreed to convene the group at John McCain's request for fear of the public message it would send if he rejected the suggestion of his party's nominee.

Bush describes the event as "the marquee event in Washington's political theater," and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as "a volcano ready to erupt" prior to entering the Cabinet Room. Following remarks by the president and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, the speaker deferred to Obama, her party's nominee, whom Bush portrays as having a "calm demeanor" while speaking about the scope of the proposal.

From a political perspective, Bush says that Obama was "smart when he informed the gathering that he was in constant contact with Hank," giving the impression that he was "aware, in touch, and prepared to get a bill passed."

In a somewhat harsher description of his party's nominee, Bush recalls that he was "puzzled" with McCain's decision to pass when it came his turn to speak next. "He had called for this meeting," Bush writes. "I assumed he would come prepared to outline a way to get the bill passed." In Bush's telling, the meeting quickly devolved into a "verbal food fight, which would have been comical except the stakes were so high."

Why Immigration Reform failed

Bush blasts Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for letting a comprehensive immigration reform bill die in the Senate.

At one point during his push to get the legislation passed, Bush reached out to the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy -- urging him to ask Reid to keep the Senate in session before the July 4 recess.

"Given the importance of this legislation, I thought it would be worthwhile to allow them a little extra for the bill to pass," Bush writes.

"Apparently, Harry Reid did not ... If Ted Kennedy couldn't persuade the majority leader of his party, my odds were not good."

And he was right. The Nevada Democrat called for a vote to end debate, which failed. The Senate then adjourned.

"Senators went home and listened to angry constituents stirred up by the loud voices on radio and TV," he writes. "By the time they came back to Washington, immigration reform was dead."

And because of that failure, Bush says "coyotes are still in business, immigrants continue to cross the border illegally, and a divisive political issue remains unsolved."

Bush Writes Of Anger, Resolve After Sept. 11 Attacks

The terrorist attacks on America on September 11, 2001, gave his administration a clear goal and him the resolve to find out who was responsible and "kick their ass," former President George W. Bush writes in his new book.

In "Decision Points," Bush describes his reaction when his then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice informed him of the crash of a third airplane into the Pentagon.

"I sat back in my seat and absorbed her words. My thoughts clarified: The first plane could have been an accident. The second was definitely an attack. The third was a declaration of war," the former president writes in his 481-page book, which goes on sale Tuesday.

"My blood was boiling. We were going to find out who did this, and kick their ass," Bush writes.

"In a single morning, the purpose of my presidency had grown clear: to protect our people and defend our freedom that had come under attack."

CNN on Friday obtained a copy of the book, being released by Crown Publishers.

In the book, Bush also recounts the government response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

He calls the response "not only flawed" but "unacceptable," and describes his own failures in this way: "As the leader of the federal government, I should have recognized the deficiencies sooner and intervened faster. I prided myself on my ability to make crisp and effective decisions. Yet in the days after Katrina, that didn't happen. The problem was not that I made the wrong decisions. It was that I took too long to decide."

Bush writes he also failed to "adequately communicate my concern for the victims of Katrina" -- a problem he calls one of "perception, not reality."

"Yet many of our citizens, particularly in the African-American community, came away convinced their president didn't care about them."

The former president recently told NBC's Matt Laurer that the "worst moment" of his administration was when rapper Kanye West declared during a Katrina celebrity telethon that "George Bush does not like black people." West this week expressed a sympathetic view of Bush's reaction to the comment.

Bush writes the Katrina had a lasting legacy on his second term.

"Just as Katrina was more than a hurricane, its impact was more than physical destruction. It eroded citizens' trust in their government. It exacerbated divisions in our society and politics. And it cast a cloud over my second term."

In "Decision Points," Bush also details how he came to utter those infamous words "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" about Michael Brown, the FEMA chief who was leading the government's response to Katrina in the days immediately following the storm.

Bush writes that he was in Mobile, Alabama, meeting with the Alabama and Mississippi governors and asked them if they were getting adequate federal support. "'That Mike Brown is doing a heck of a job,' Bob said," referring to Alabama governor Bob Riley. "I knew Mike was under pressure and I wanted to boost his morale," Bush writes, so he repeated Riley's words a few minutes later when he spoke to the press.

"I never imagined those words of encouragement would become an infamous entry in the political lexicon. As complaints about Mike Brown's performance mounted, especially in New Orleans, critics turned my words of encouragement into a club to bludgeon me."

The former FEMA head, who resigned two weeks after the compliment, told CNN in August that he winced when Bush uttered the line.

"I knew the minute he said that, the media and everybody else would see a disconnect between what he was saying and what I was witnessing on the ground," Brown said. "That's the president's style. His attitude and demeanor is always one of being a cheerleader and trying to encourage people to keep moving. It was just the wrong time and the wrong place."

Bush in recent years has talked about his past problems with alcohol abuse and his 1986 decision to give up drinking completely.

Just days before the 2000 presidential election, news broke that Bush had been arrested for driving under the influence in Maine in 1976. In his memoir, Bush writes, "Not disclosing the DUI on my terms may have been the single costliest political mistake I ever made."

He says he had decided against doing so because he didn't want to undermine his admonitions to his daughters about drinking and driving.

After the news came out -- so close to election day, Bush writes, he went to bed that night on the campaign trail thinking, "I may have just cost myself the presidency."

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Sources:, CBS News, CNN, MSNBC, Washington Post, Google Maps

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