Laura Bush's Life, Straight from the 'Heart'

No one doubted the intelligence findings (later proven untrue) that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, she writes, so why would he? And he flew over the devastation in New Orleans days after Katrina rather than stopping there because he was concerned about distracting rescue and relief efforts with the security and logistical demands of a presidential visit.

Instead, she faults his critics. She singles out Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for calling her husband a "liar" and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for questioning his judgment, knowledge and experience. "He has none," Pelosi once said of Bush.

"I think it's really important for public officials to use some sort of decorum, for all of them to," Laura Bush says. "George did. He would have never called anyone names like that, ever — certainly not the Leader and the Speaker. I mean, that's just not constructive. And we see it today. It's still happening today. It wasn't just about George. Now it's about the other side."

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid, defends the comments the senator made when Bush signed off on designating a Nevada site for nuclear waste storage after leaving the impression during the 2000 campaign he wasn't likely to do so. "The fact is former president Bush didn't tell the truth to the people of Nevada about Yucca Mountain, and Sen. Reid didn't take it lightly," Manley says.

Then there's the news media. Bush describes a New York Times reporter as arrogant and adversarial, says a Washington Post reporter created a diplomatic incident during her trip to the Middle East and accuses a USA TODAY reporter of asking a "trick question" that prompted Teresa Heinz Kerry to say during the 2004 campaign that Laura Bush had never "had a real job."

Taking reporters to task in the book "was a lot of fun," she says in the interview, laughing, then adds: "Only kidding. I know the press gets the last word."

More sobering is the picture Laura Bush paints of how life inside the White House was transformed with the 9/11 terror attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.

She had never realized what a comforting backdrop the bustle of the public tours downstairs had been. "For a few months, there were no tours at all, and the White House is very silent without tours," she says. Before, she could "glance out the front window on the north side (to) see the tours going out and people walking down the street." Now, that was gone, too.

Security was tightened, and a hyper-vigilance took over. When she, her husband and others in the U.S. delegation fell ill at the G8 summit in Germany in 2007, they suspected poisoning, though it is now thought to have been caused by a virus.

At the White House, when a plane violated the closed airspace or a trespasser jumped over the fence, Secret Service agents would hustle her down three flights of stairs to the White House bunker.

'A comfort in each other'

Laura Welch and George W. Bush had grown up 10 blocks apart in Midland but weren't formally introduced until mutual friends invited them to a backyard barbecue on a hot July day in 1977. Three months later, they were married.

"That does seem a little reckless," she acknowledges, "but we had grown up absolutely side-by-side without having really crossed paths, except in the seventh grade at San Jacinto (Junior High), when neither of us would have spoken to someone of the other sex, probably."

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