Bush signs his book in DallasNov. 10, 2010
Former President George W. Bush signs a copy of his book "Decision Points" at a store near his Dallas home on Tuesday.
By Jamie Stengle
DALLAS -- Autograph-seekers lined up around a Texas shopping center Tuesday as former President George W. Bush officially kicked off the release of his new memoir at a bookstore about a mile from his Dallas home.
First in line were Terry and Tammy Jones of suburban Justin, who had camped out since the previous afternoon with sleeping bags and a portable DVD player. They said when they told Bush of their wait, he said he would sign their books "with admiration," shaking 53-year-old Terry Jones' hand and kissing his wife's.
"Eighteen hours for two seconds and a kiss on the hand," Tammy Jones, 52, said with a smile.
Terry Jones said they wanted to tell Bush "thank you." He said he admired Bush because "when he makes a decision, he sticks with it."
In an interview that aired Tuesday on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," Bush told the talk show host that writing the memoir "was an easy process."
"A lot of people don't think I can read, much less write," Bush joked to Winfrey.
As in the book, Bush also recounted the mistakes of his presidency, saying he still feels "sick" about the fact no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. His response to Hurricane Katrina could have been quicker, he said, and he acknowledged he didn't see the financial meltdown coming.
No stranger to harsh criticism, Bush had nothing negative to say about President Barack Obama, whom Winfrey famously supported in 2008.
"I didn't like it when people criticized me," Bush said. "And so you're not going to see me out there chirping away (at Obama). And I want our president to succeed. I love our country."
Largely out of the public view since he left office, Bush is now vigorously promoting his book, with planned appearances in Illinois and Ohio later this week and as the featured author at the Miami Book Fair International this weekend.
Among the memoir's revelations, Bush confirms the target of a 2007 Israeli airstrike was a Syrian nuclear reactor and suggests he quietly approved the action. He also reveals that Israel first asked the U.S. to bomb the site, but his administration refused.
The Syria section is just a small part of the book generating buzz for its surprising candor, while Bush's continued defense of harsh tactics used against terrorist suspects -- such as waterboarding -- has created an uproar in some areas, especially Europe.
Israel, one of the few places Bush remained popular throughout his term, has been far kinder. Israeli media have focused on the book's warm praise for ex-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, his support for Israel's tough crackdown on Palestinian militants in the last decade and his animosity toward the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.
More than 2,000 copies of "Decision Points" sold by the time Bush left the Dallas store at 11 a.m. Tuesday, said David Drake, a spokesman for the Random House Inc. imprint Crown Publishers. The former president was able to sign copies for 1,300 customers and provided signed bookplates for 500 others, said Drake, who added that the remainder of the crowd he estimated at 2,500 received instructions for getting a bookplate later.
Holly McKnight, a legally blind 36-year-old from Arlington who visited the Dallas event, said she was thrilled the audio book -- read by Bush -- was available the same day as the print edition.
McKnight said she told Bush, "Thank you for all you do. You are prayed for," as he signed her book.
"Keep it up. It works," he responded.
Adrienne Cantwell, 57, of Coppell, had stood in line with her 18-year-old daughter since Monday night. Cantwell said she and her husband both served in the Air Force and their son also has served in the military.
"He might send us to hard places, but he still cared about what happened to us and he supported us," she said of Bush. "He gave us what we needed."
Amber Fletcher, a 23-year-old student at Texas Woman's University, said she was eager to read the memoir.
"Everybody plays the blame game and I just want to know his side of the story," said Fletcher, who wore a T-shirt bearing a smiling Bush giving a thumbs up and the phrase "Miss Me Yet?" She stopped to have her picture snapped with about five protesters who held signs, including one reading "Torture is illegal," at the corner of the shopping center.