After two years of silence, former President George W. Bush has returned to the media spotlight to promote his memoir, Decision Points, and discuss the hardest parts of his presidency and his life.
In an hour-long prime-time interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, Bush opens up about how his faith in God stopped him from drinking and how his decision to commute Scooter Libby’s sentence caused a rift in his relationship with former Vice President Dick Cheney.
One of Bush’s lasts acts as president was to commute the sentence of Libby, who leaked information about a covert CIA agent to newspaper reporters. While Bush came under scrutiny for waiving jail time, Cheney thought Libby should have gotten a full pardon.
“Scooter is a loyal American who worked for Vice President Cheney. He got caught up in this Valerie Plame case, was indicted and convicted. I choose to commute his sentence,” Bush told Lauer. “I felt he had paid enough of a penalty. I let the jury verdict stand, and the vice president was angry.”
Bush said his relationship with Cheney was strained for a while after the decision but the two are on good terms now.
While the Libby case was an important part of the Bush presidency, his decision to stop drinking, he said, was the most important in his life.
Though Bush has never admitted to being an alcoholic, he has said he drank too much and was arrested for disorderly conduct and charged with driving under the influence in his youth. But at 40, Bush had a religious awakening and stopped drinking cold-turkey.
“The book starts off with Laura saying, ‘Can you tell me a day when you haven’t had a drink?’ And when you drink too much, the answer is ‘Yes, I can.’ And then I couldn’t remember a day,” he said. “I could easily have a beer or two or a Martini before dinner; bourbon; B&B. I was a drunkard. Now, I wasn’t a knee-walking drunk. Nevertheless, in either case alcohol becomes central to your life. And I finally woke up and realized that I did not want to live a life where alcohol was central.”
Bush said if he hadn’t quit drinking, he probably wouldn’t have been president, because of his sharp tongue while intoxicated.
Bush's memoir goes on sale tomorrow. The prime-time special airs tonight on NBC.