"I want people to understand the environment in which I was making decisions. I want people to get a sense of how decisions were made and I want people to understand the options that were placed before me," Bush said during a brief telephone interview Wednesday with The Associated Press from his office in Dallas.
Bush's book, tentatively (not decisively) called "Decision Points," is scheduled for a 2010 release by Crown, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group. It is unusual in a couple of ways.
Instead of telling his life story, Bush will concentrate on about a dozen personal and presidential choices, from giving up drinking to picking Dick Cheney as his vice president to sending troops to Iraq. He will also write about his relationship with family members, including his father, the first President Bush, his religious faith and his highly criticized response to Hurricane Katrina.
Instead of having competing publishers bid, Bush and his representative, Washington attorney Robert Barnett, negotiated for world rights only with Crown Publishers, where authors include President Obama and Bush's secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. Barnett used a similar strategy in working out deals with publisher Alfred A. Knopf for another client, former President Clinton.
"Proceeding in this way gets the project going promptly, avoids the time-consuming process of multiple meetings and multiple negotiations, and preserves confidentiality for all concerned," Barnett said.
Financial details were not disclosed, although publishers have openly doubted that Bush would receive the $15 million Clinton got for his memoir, "My Life."
Crown Publishing is a division of Random House Inc. and the deal was handled by Random House executive vice president and publisher at large Stephen Rubin. As head of the Doubleday Publishing Group_ a division recently dismantled in a corporate realignment _ Rubin released Dan Brown's mega-selling "The Da Vinci Code" and Kitty Kelley's "The Family," an unauthorized and unflattering take on the Bush dynasty.
Barnett said that Rubin and Crown had shown "great enthusiasm" and that a deal was made not long after Rubin and Crown officials met with Bush in Dallas.
The structure of Bush's current book is not unlike his "A Charge to Keep," published by William Morrow in 1999 as the then-Texas governor was preparing to run for president. In the foreword to "Charge," Bush noted that he had no interest in a comprehensive, chronological memoir.
"That would be far too boring," he wrote. "The book chronicles some of the events that have shaped my life and some of my major decisions and actions as governor of Texas."
Bush told the AP on Wednesday that he was not "comfortable with the first book, only because it seemed rushed," and that his current memoir would have "a lot more depth," thanks to his years as president. Although he didn't keep a diary while in the White House _ he "jotted" down the occasional note _ he said he began "Decision Points" just two days after leaving the White House and had written "maybe" 30,000 words so far.
Bush is working with research assistants and a former White House speechwriter, Chris Michel.
Once known for his reluctance to acknowledge mistakes, Bush said the book would include self-criticism, "Absolutely, yes," but cautioned that "hindsight is very easy" and that he would make sure readers could view events as he saw them.
"I want to recreate what it was like, for example, right after 9/11," he said, "and have people understand the emotions I felt and what others around me felt at the time."
Asked if he might write about the ouster of his first defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, or about his decision not to pardon Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, choices bth openly disputed by Cheney, Bush said he didn't know.
"I made a lot of decisions," he said.
Libby was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice in the investigation of the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. Bush commuted Libby's sentence and saved him from serving time in prison, but Libby remains a convicted felon.
Bush said he has read other presidential memoirs, including Ulysses S. Grants' highly praised autobiography, a book he enjoyed in part because it was "anecdotal." He said he had "skimmed" Clinton's memoir and had yet to read either of Obama's books, "Dreams From My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope."
Like Clinton, he is a fan of "Personal History," the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir by Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham.
Presidential memoirs have rarely satisfied critics or the general public, with exceptions including Clinton's "My Life," a million seller despite mixed reviews, and Grant's memoirs, which didn't even cover his time in office. Bush's father also did not write a conventional memoir; he instead collaborated on a foreign policy book with his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft.
George W. Bush has been talking for months about a memoir, even while he was president, and has said he wanted to give people an idea of the world as seen through a president's eyes. Publishers, noting Bush's low approval ratings and questioning his capacity for self-criticism, have been less enthusiastic, urging him not to hurry. Still, Barnett said he received calls from several publishers about a possible book.
Virtually all the top officials in the Bush administration, from Rice to political strategist Karl Rove, have either completed books or are in the midst of writing them. Cheney has said he plans a memoir and former first lady Laura Bush has a deal with Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
Her book, like her husband's, is scheduled for 2010. Barnett, who represents both Bushes, said that Laura Bush's book would come out first.