Peter Hoskin

Ten more highlights from the Bush serialisation

Ten more highlights from the Bush serialisation
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You know the drill: the second part of the Times's Bush serialisation (£) is out today, so here are ten more highlights from their coverage. The book is also out today, so we can, as the former President suggests, draw our own conclusions.

1) Watching the towers collapse. "I caught enough fleeting glimpses of the coverage to understand the horror of what the American people were watching. Stranded people were jumping to their deaths from the World Trade Center towers. I felt their agony and despair. I had the most powerful job in the world, yet I felt powerless to help them.

At one point, the television signal held steady long enough for me to see the south tower of the World Trade Center collapse. The north tower fell less than 30 minutes later. I was certain that I had just watched more Americans die than any president in history."

2) False alarm. "Sleep did not come easily [on the evening of 9/11]. My mind replayed the images of the day. Just as I was about to doze off, I saw a figure silhouetted at the bedroom door. He was breathing heavily and shouting: 'Mr President, Mr President, the White House is under attack! Let’s go!'

I told Laura we needed to move fast. She didn’t have time to put in her contact lenses, so she held on to me.

I grabbed her robe and guided her with one arm while I scooped up Barney, our Scottish terrier, with the other. I called Spot, our English springer spaniel, to follow. I was barefoot and wearing running shorts and a T-shirt. We must have made quite a sight.

The Secret Service hustled us down to the underground shelter. I heard the slam of a heavy door and the sound of a pressurized lock as we entered the tunnel. We hustled down the final corridor, past the staff seated outside, and into the PEOC.

After a few minutes, an enlisted man walked into the conference room. 'Mr. President,' he said matter-of-factly, 'it was one of ours.'"

3) Speaking bluntly. "There is no textbook on how to steady a nation rattled by a faceless enemy. I relied on instincts and background. Occasionally, I spoke a little too bluntly, such as when I said I wanted bin Laden 'dead or alive'."

4) His most meaningful accomplishment. "After the nightmare of September 11, America went seven and a half years without another successful terrorist attack on our soil.

If I had to summarize my most meaningful accomplishment as president in one sentence, that would be it."

5) Blair's cojones. "The more time we spent together, the more I respected Tony. Over the years, he grew into my closest partner and best friend on the world stage.

Above all, Tony Blair had courage. No issue demonstrated it more clearly than Iraq. Like me, Tony considered Saddam a threat the world could not tolerate after 9/11. After [one] meeting, I told Alastair Campbell, 'Your man has got cojones'."

6) Blair as Churchill. "The second [UN] resolution, which we introduced on February 24, 2003, was important. Tony was facing intense internal pressure on the issue of Iraq, and it was important for him to show that he had exhausted every possible alternative to military force. Factions of the Labour Party had revolted against him. By early March, it wasn’t clear if his Government could survive.

I called Tony and expressed my concern. I told him I’d rather have him drop out of the coalition and keep his Government than try to stay in and lose it. 'I said I’m with you,' Tony answered. I pressed my point again. 'I understand that, and that’s good of you to say,' he replied. 'I absolutely believe in this. I will take it up to the very last.'

I heard an echo of Winston Churchill in my friend’s voice. It was a moment of courage that will stay with me forever."

7) The mistakes of Katrina. "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. I made an additional mistake by failing to adequately communicate my concern for the victims of Katrina. This was a problem of perception, not reality. My heart broke at the sight of helpless people trapped on their rooftops waiting to be rescued. I was outraged by the fact that the most powerful country in the world could not deliver water to mothers holding their dehydrated babies under the baking sun."

8) Sending the troops into New Orleans. "I was as frustrated as I had been at any point in my presidency. All my instincts told me we needed to get federal troops into New Orleans to stop the violence and speed the recovery. But I was stuck with a resistant governor, a reluctant Pentagon, and an antiquated law. I wanted to overrule them all. But at the time, I worried that the consequence could be a constitutional crisis, and possibly a political insurrection as well."

9) An all-time low. "I faced a lot of criticism as president. I didn’t like hearing people claim I had lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction or cut taxes to benefit the rich. But the suggestion that I was a racist because of the response to Katrina represented an all-time low. I told Laura at the time that it was the worst moment of my presidency. I feel the same way today."

10) The political legacy of Katrina. "In a national catastrophe, the easiest person to blame is the president. Katrina presented a political opportunity that some critics exploited for years. The aftermath of Katrina — combined with the collapse of Social Security reform and the drumbeat of violence in Iraq — made the fall of 2005 a damaging period in my presidency. Ultimately, the story of Katrina is that it was the storm of the century."