George W. Bush, all but invisible since he left the White House nearly two years ago, reclaimed the spotlight Tuesday with the release of a new memoir defending his "war on terror" and the Iraq invasion.
Decision Points appears a week after the momentous November 2 US elections saw congressional Republicans make a surprising recovery after falling out of favor with US voters following the eight often tumultuous years of Bush's administration.
Bush will be as ubiquitous over the next few weeks as he has been scarce since handing over the keys to the White House to Barack Obama in January 2009, with a whirlwind schedule of media appearances to promote his book, which has a print-run of some 1.5 million copies.
In the hefty, 500-page Decision Points, Bush wrote of his errors in the Iraq campaign and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, which international intelligence reports strongly suggested Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had obtained."No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn't find the weapons. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do," Bush wrote, according to an excerpt of the book released by NBC television.
Asked by NBC if he considered apologizing for the mistakes, the former president said he has not.
"Apologizing would basically say the decision was a wrong decision," Bush said at the start of a barrage of interviews that will also see him sit down with talk show supremo Oprah Winfrey and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.
"I don't believe it was the wrong decision. I thought the best way to handle this was to find out why. And what went wrong. And to remedy it."
He insisted "the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power, as are 25 million people who now have a chance to live in freedom" in Iraq.
Decision Points covers 14 separate decisions Bush made while in the White House, offering analysis about how he reached them in an effort to shed further light on his presidency.
The book begins with the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, which drastically reshaped his foreign and military policy, and ends with the economic meltdown during his waning days in the White House.
Scrutiny of the Bush presidency will continue with former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld's memoir due in January and Cheney's a few months later.
Bush confesses that he did not respond as effectively as he could have during the Hurricane Katrina crisis, which some critics viewed as the low point of his presidency.
He called his New Orleans flyover a "huge mistake," and acknowledged he should have stopped in Louisiana to tell local officials and victims of the disaster "I hear you."
He said the photographs now seared in public memory showing the president looking out the window of Air Force One on a flight back to Washington made him seem "detached and uncaring."
"This was a problem of perception, not reality," Bush said in his book. "My heart broke at the sight of helpless people trapped on their rooftops waiting to be rescued."
Among the more personal aspects of the book, Bush describes in detail his earlier battles with alcoholism, which he overcame when he was 40 years old.
During the middle of his book tour, Bush is to attend a November 16 groundbreaking ceremony for the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
The center will be the official repository for thousands of documents related to his presidency, as well as a reunion site for hundreds of veterans of his administration.
Bush told NBC in the exclusive broadcast airing late Monday that one of the worst moments of his presidency occurred when rap superstar Kanye West criticized his administration's lethargic response to Hurricane Katrina as being driven by racial bias.
"He called me a racist," the former president told NBC of West's characteristically bombastic statement at a fundraising concert, just days after Katrina hit the Gulf coast, that Bush "doesn't care about black people."
"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," said Bush.
"It was one of the most disgusting moments in my presidency."