George W. Bush At The Miami Book Fair: The Live Blog
Riptide is here, too, to bring you the minute-by-minute, awkward-chuckle by-awkward chuckle breakdown of this exercise in ex-presidential bloviating, straight from the back row where we're wedged in next to German Public Radio. Will shoes be thrown? Will Code Pink cause a vaguely embarrassing scene? Will pretzels be gagged upon?
Check back at 3 p.m., when No. 43 is scheduled to hit the stage, for a live blog.
1:46: How do you rile a crowd up for a rock'n'roll afternoon of Bushisms? Pump in that smoooooove jazz, baby. There's more energy in this place than Tuesday night in a Macy's department store.
The crowd is filtering in. Did they charter a bus straight from a Naples country club? There's already enough bald old white guys in chinos in here to start a Lions Club chapter.
2 pm: Every TV camera in attendance is filming the same old lady in the front row reading a copy of Decision Points. If anyone else brought a copy (and everyone who paid the $40 price of admission got a signed edition), they're keeping it hidden for now.
2:45: As the doors open for general admission, it's time to admit the bald truth: Riptide hasn't actually had time yet to curl up with Decision Points in front of a raging fire on our favorite bearskin rug (which, really, is the only civilized way to read a presidential memoir).
Instead, we've spent the afternoon checking the Googleverse for the hottest secrets Bush has included in his book. These seem to be the high points:
1) He ends his ode to executive power with a poignant anecdote about dog poop. Yeah.
2) The toughest moment in his presidency wasn't the time 9/11 happened, or the increasingly fruitless search for WMDs in Iraq, or the devastation in post-Katrina New Orleans. No, it was the time a rapper famous for replacing his teeth with diamonds called him a racist on TV.
3) Bush had some sort of weird manliness contest with Vladimir Putin over the size and ferocity of their pet dogs. (Vlad, of course, won.)
4) His only serious argument with Dick Cheney came over the Veep's habit of ruthlessly murdering his gardeners. (Ooops, that one seems to have been cut out of the final edit.)
2:50 -- A gaggle of official Republican-looking types just wandered in. It's hard to get ID's from the media cage in back, but we definitely saw Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
No sign yet of the elusive Jeb.
3 pm -- Eduardo Padron, president of MDC, solves the mystery: Mario is here, along with older bro Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
As Mitch Kaplan introduces W., there are at least 50 open seats in the back. What happened with the immediate sellout last week? Are there that many no shows?
3:08 -- It's Bush time! No. 43 is looking slim and wearing a powder blue suit coat that looks oddly Ron Burgandy-ian. The crowd gives him a huge ovation, and he opens with a crack to Mitch Kaplan:
"I'd like to thank Mitch for promoting literacy. As a new author, it's in my interest to promote literacy."
3:15 --Michael Barone, a Washington Examiner columnist and Fox News contributor, is asking the questions. It's not exactly a grilling: So far he's asked what he learned from his dad -- answer: How to deal with abuse as president -- and whether anyone objected to picking Dick Cheney.
"Rove strongly objected to the pick. He thought Cheney was not going to help with the electoral college (Those three elctoral votes in Wyoming wouldn't help much, apparently)."
3:20 -- Here's a quote, presented for your pleasure entirely without further context:
"He taught me how to drink beer out of a mug with no hands. You gotta kind of bite the side."
3:30 -- Well, here's a tidbit: On the night of 9/11, Bush refused to spend the night in a fortified bunker under the White House. Why?
The bed, frankly, didn't look comfy enough.
"They said you need to spend the night down here. I said, 'Show me the bed.' It looked like something Harry Truman had installed," Bush says. "In a crisis, it's vital that you get enough rest to be able to think clearly."
3:35 -- First long ovation for the night and it's for Bush's justification of authorizing torture against detainees. (Just in case you didn't think this was a friendly crowd here tonight). Here's what he said:
"I approved techniques including waterboarding on three people. I make two points on this in the book: One, the information we received from those on whom we used enhanced interrogation techniques saved American lives. Second, I couldn't have lived with myself, if I hadn't, under the law, used every technique within my ability to prevent further attacks. I knew there'd be controversy and blowback, but my job is to protect you."
3:40 -- Another big ovation for Bush's defense of his war in Iraq. Is this a GOP rally at the Book Fair? Take it away, Dubya:
"People forget that before I was elected Congress overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for regime change in Iraq. After 9/11, Congress passed a resolution authorizing me to use force to protect the American people. Then, after difficulties arose in Iraq, everyone suddenly began to change their minds. But you can't be playing politics with the security of the United States or with the security of those who are wearing a uniform."
3:50 -- Finally! A serious topic. Bush responds to all the tit for tat with Kanye West, he of "President Bush doesn't care about black people" and diamond teeth fame.
Bush says the problem was that it wasn't just Kanye calling him a racist.
"It wasn't just one person. It was an opportunity for people to use the response to Katrina to portray me as a racist, and I didn't like it one bit," Bush says. "You can call me names, but the label of racist I couldn't stomach that. It was unbelievably unfair."
Would he have done anything different? Bush says he wouldn't have done that airborne photo op, and that he would have sent in the 82nd Airborne to keep the city safe.
3:55 -- Despite all that serious business, Bush says his cabinet was as light-hearted as an Aaron Sorkin screenplay. Evidence? Before a meeting with Bono, Bush's chief of staff wanted to make sure he knew who he was.
"He's an Irish rock star," Bush says. "And he used to be married to Cher, right?"
Ha! Ha! Oh, Bushie.
4 p.m. -- Well, that's that. Bush ends his night with a speech about Queen Elizabeth's dogs and a rainbow, and some guy yelling, "What does it mean?! What does it mean?!" -- or maybe that was a Youtube video we got distracted with.
Anyway, we all learned a lot tonight. Bush regrets how Katrina was handled, but regrets more that it made people think he was racist; he certainly does not regret going to war with Iraq or waterboarding Khalid Sheik Mohammed; he thinks Tony Blair is hilarious and that Vlad Putin lied to him when he showed him his soul through his eyeballs; and, mostly importantly of all, he values a comfortable bed above all other luxuries.
Thanks for hanging with us! We're off to cleanse our palates with a light afternoon reading Meghan McCain's new book.