The New York Times reports that former President George W. Bush reveals in his upcoming memoirs that he considered dropping Vice President Dick Cheney from the presidential ticket for the 2004 elections.
The paper obtained an early copy of Bush's book "Decision Points," which is not slated to be released until Nov. 9. Times reporter Peter Baker writes that Bush claims to have mulled switching Cheney with then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Even more surprising, the former president says that the idea was actually Cheney's:
"While Dick helped with important parts of our base, he had become a lightning rod for criticism from the media and the left," Mr. Bush writes. "He was seen as dark and heartless - the Darth Vader of the administration." The president resented the caricature that Mr. Cheney really controlled the White House. "Accepting Dick's offer would be one way to demonstrate that I was in charge," he writes.
But in the end, Mr. Bush writes, "the more I thought about it, the more strongly I felt Dick should stay. I hadn't picked him to be a political asset; I had chosen him to help me do the job. That was exactly what he had done." Mr. Bush wrote that he trusted Mr. Cheney, valued his steadiness and considered him a good friend. So, "at one of our lunches a few weeks later, I asked Dick to stay and he agreed."
Baker also writes that Cheney "clearly pushed" Bush towards war with Iraq:
The former president writes that his vice president "had gotten out in front of my position" with an August 2002 speech dismissing the prospect of further inspections and says he ordered Ms. Rice to call Mr. Cheney to rein him back in.
At one point during their private weekly lunch, Mr. Cheney questioned whether Mr. Bush would follow through on the threats against Mr. Hussein. "Are you going to take care of this guy, or not?" Mr. Cheney demanded.
The Times also discloses other details of Bush's memoir, such as his continued defense of waterboarding, which he says "saved lives." Bush also writes that when the CIA asked if they could waterboard Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who helped mastermind the 9/11 attacks, he replied, "Damn right."
While Bush may not be thrilled that details of his forthcoming book have been leaked, he is still going forward with a planned media blitz. On Nov. 8, the night before his book is released, Bush will give his first post-presidential interview to NBC's Matt Lauer. In the interview, which will air as a "Matt Lauer Reports" special, Bush discusses 9/11 and the Iraq war. He also talks about the moment when Kanye West famously said that "George Bush doesn't care about black people" in the wake of Hurricane Katrina:
BUSH: That's -- "he's a racist." And I didn't appreciate it then. I don't appreciate it now. It's one thing to say, "I don't appreciate the way he's handled his business." It's another thing to say, "This man's a racist." I resent it, it's not true, and it was one of the most disgusting moments in my Presidency.