Bush Regrets Few Decisions from Presidency

"Decision Points" book by former President George W. Bush, graphic element

Nearly two years after President George W. Bush left office, he said Monday night in a nationally broadcast interview that he regretted few of the decisions he made during his presidency.

Two decisions he called mistakes were flying over New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and including the phrase "mission accomplished" in a speech about war in Iraq.

Mr. Bush sat down with NBC's Matt Lauer for an hour-long interview on the eve of the release of Mr. Bush's book "Decision Points," that touched on several issues, including the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Katrina and the use of waterboarding on suspected terrorists.

Scroll down to watch clips from the interview.

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The former president was adamant that waterboarding was legal because his lawyers told him so. When Lauer repeated criticism from people who call waterboarding torture, Mr. Bush dismissed it.

"They can draw whatever conclusion they want," Mr. Bush said. "It was the right thing to do. I'm not going to debate the issue."

On the seven minutes Mr. Bush spent sitting in a Florida classroom after learning a second airliner had crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the former president was just as unwavering.

"I'm not going to debate the critics as to whether I was in shock or not because I wasn't," Mr. Bush said.

Lauer asked Mr. Bush whether people might give him "some heat" for his previously disclosed comment that one of the worst moments of his presidency was when rapper Kanye West said he didn't care about black people.

"Don't care," Mr. Bush said.

The former president called the New Orleans flyover and the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq each a "mistake." He specifically referred to the post-Katrina flyover as a "huge mistake," but he wouldn't say whether it was the event that damaged his presidency more, which Lauer asked.

"I think it reinforced damage that was taking place," Mr. Bush said. "I had failed to get Congress to move on Social Security. Iraq was still very difficult. And so Katrina came along and it gave critics an opportunity to kind of undermine the presidency I guess."


Mr. Bush also told Lauer that he didn't expect his presidency to be judged fully in his lifetime.

"I hope I'm judged a success. But I'm gonna be dead, Matt, when they finally figure it out," he said. "And I'm comfortable knowing that I gave it my all, that I love America and I know it was an honor to serve."

In the end, the former president conveyed the same message as all authors in an interview:

"All I ask," Mr. Bush said, "is that people read the book."

  • Alex Sundby

    Alex Sundby is an associate news editor for CBSNews.com

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