Bush considered dumping Cheney in 2004

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

WASHINGTON - Former US president George W. Bush writes in a new memoir that he considered dumping vice president Dick Cheney from his 2004 election bid to dispel myths that Cheney was running the White House and to “demonstrate that I was in charge”.

Cheney offered to remove himself from the ticket while the two men had a private lunch in 2003, before Bush was to gear up his re-election campaign. “I did consider the offer,” Bush writes.

The memoir, “Decision Points”, is due in US bookstores Saturday. The New York Times and Washington Post obtained copies in advance of the publication. Bush plans to launch the release with a book tour, his first significant public event since he left office in January 2009.

Bush’s book focuses on key moments of his life and presidency, ranging from decisions to give up drinking, invade Iraq and in his relationship with the vice president, which grew strained as he was leaving office.

“While Dick helped with important parts of our base, he had become a lightening rod for criticism from the media and the left,” Bush writes. “He was seen as dark and heartless - the Darth Vader of the administration.”

Bush said he disagreed with that perception of Cheney, and “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.”

“At one of our lunches a few weeks later, I asked Dick to stay and he agreed,” Bush says.

Bush also divulges his role in approving harsh interrogation techniques on terrorists suspects. Bush says he replied “damn right” when the CIA asked for his authorisation to waterboard Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the admitted mastermind of the Sep 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Bush defended his decision to invade Iraq, writing that getting rid of Saddam Hussein made the world more safe. But he writes that he regrets reducing the number of US soldiers in the months following the defeat of Saddam’s regime. He admits that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction gave him a “sickening” feeling that continues to bother him.

The 43rd president reveals that he and Cheney disagreed over Bush’s decision to fire then-defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld because the war in Iraq was going badly and led to Republican defeats in 2006 congressional elections.

Perhaps their sharpest dispute came at the end of his presidency to reject Cheney’s request to pardon Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff who had been convicted of lying to federal agents in a CIA leak investigation. When Bush informed Cheney of his decision, the vice president replied: “I can’t believe you’re going to leave a soldier on the battlefield.”

Bush said he worried their friendship would not survive but that they were able to patch things up.

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