The Rapidian

George W. Bush Discusses "Decision Points" in GR

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<em>Decision Points</em> by Fmr. President George W. Bush

Decision Points by Fmr. President George W. Bush /Crown Publishers

On Dec. 2 at 2 p.m., former President George W. Bush visited Grand Rapids to speak about his new book, Decision Points. The setting was fairly casual at the Gerald R. Ford Museum, with Bush lounging in an easy chair as he waited to be announced to the crowd of approximately 40 members of the museum. He discussed the reason he wrote his book the way he did, his family, and his years as president and the trying times that he faced.

A moderator asked questions, and took a few from audience members to throw at Bush. Despite the seriousness of some answers, Bush remained in good spirits, joking that “some people are in shock that I can even read, much less write a book!” Bush said he began writing Decision Points after he handed the reins over to President Obama. The book was written in a different way than other memoirs, according to Bush. It has more anecdotes and is “organized around decisions … I thought it would interest the reader to hear what it’s like to be the president during some trying times.”

“I’m beyond caring what people think,” he laughed, when asked how hard it was to put his White House years into words. “I’m not lookin’ for votes!"

Bush spoke about not only being the President, but being the child of one. “It was painful and tough,” he said, recalling how hard it was for him to hear his father criticized. “When I became president, my criticism meant nothing compared to watching him get criticized…the roles were reversed.” George W. Bush said that he followed his father’s example when he became President. Bush discussed how his family, friends, and faith kept him strong as President.

Though a devout believer in “the Almighty,” Bush said that one of the “great strengths of America is that we can worship however we want," which encourages people to be devoted to their own religion, whatever that may be.

Fmr. President Bush spoke of his decision to choose Dick Cheney as his Vice President, and said that he has no regrets when it comes to that decision. He still sees bringing Cheney on as a good move, and one that would show that he “wasn’t afraid to surround myself with experienced and strong people.” He also told the moderator that he and Cheney rarely keep in touch these days, though he still speaks to Condoleeza Rice, who was his Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, and a few other important staff members that were by his side in Washington.

Of course, 9/11 came into play during the session. The former President discussed how “after 9/11 we had to look at this world differently…we had to confront threats before they were fully realized.” For example, Saddam Hussein was given the ultimatum to “disclose, disarm, or face the consequences,” and he did not take it seriously.

“It was his choice to make, whether or not we used military force,” Bush said. “Everybody saw the threat, and we had the support of Congress.”

Though the weapons of mass destruction were never found, Bush is still emphatic that Saddam Hussein was capable of making them, and that everyone suspected that they were there. The former President maintains that the world, especially Iraq, is far better off without Hussein, calling him a “thug who stayed in power by brute force.”   He said that he believes that, someday, Iraq “will be a democratic pillar…[and] a democracy in what used to be tyranny will set examples for others.”

World AIDS Day was also on the list of topics – specifically George W. Bush’s support for the people of Africa.

“We have a moral interest and a national security interest in helping these people,” he said. “We face an enemy that recruits hopeless people, and so we should address hopelessness whenever possible.”

With Bush’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDs (PEPFAR), he has increased the number of available antivirals from 50,000 to 4 million.

“I believe that we are a wealthy enough nation to take care of ourselves and help others,” he said. “I didn’t do this to make us liked. I did it because it was the right thing to do!” Bush said.

Towards the end, the banter became slightly less serious. Bush claimed a love for books, saying that one year as president he read over 92 books, and that he read the Bible daily as part of his routine.

“Life requires discipline,” he declared, saying that he still exercises six days a week, and doesn’t watch television.

Bush said that he has no plans to become part of the 2012 elections.

“When you get off the stage, you get off the stage,” he added. “You won’t see much of me.”

A 10 year-old from the audience asked what Bush would be doing for Christmas if he were still president. “Camp David,” was the instant answer. “It’s a really special place to go for Christmas.” When asked about the Rangers’ loss in the World Series, he replied, “I’m a glass half-full kind of guy. It was awesome being in the World Series!”

“Good pitching can beat good hitting,” he added with a shrug.

In the future, Bush plans to continue his work to improve the quality of education in the United States, and hopes to recruit and train better principals for public schools. He also said that he’d like to help design better strategies to address issues such as AIDS or malaria, and continue to promote freedom in the Middle East, along with his wife Laura. “Women are going to lead the democratic movement,” he said. “We will continue to spread freedom.”

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Oh wow - how'd you get access to this event?

Great article Becky, I liked the quote “some people are in shock that I can even read, much less write a book!” 

George: It was for museum members only, but Wood TV 8 streamed it live on their website! So glad I checked it out, it was actually a really great Q&A session.


Steven: Thanks, I thought that was funny, too. G.W. actually made me laugh a lot throughout the interview :-)