Former President Bush Admits Mistakes of Presidency, Says He's 'Not a Racist'

PHOTO: George Bush talks with Oprah, November 9, 2010.
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Former President George W. Bush stood firmly behind many controversial decisions made during his presidency in an interview with Oprah Winfrey today, defending his response to the Sept. 11 attacks and adding that the worst insult he received in his two terms in office came from rapper Kanye West.

Appearing on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to promote his new memoir, "Decision Points," Bush said he hoped to stay out of the public eye in the future and discussed everything from his struggles with alcohol to coping with the name-calling and criticism that dominated much of his eight years as president.

Video: Former President Bush releases new memoir.
President Bush prepares to release his memoir

"I'm sure it hurt my daughters and wife," Bush said of the various names he was called during his eight years in the White House, including "Nazi" and "Satan." "But it didn't hurt me."

"I knew what I was doing, and I felt so strongly about some of the decisions I was making. I felt like history would understand them ultimately," he said. "If I had allowed critics to affect me during the presidency -- the name-calling -- I don't think I would have been doing my job as president."

Bush was widely criticized following Hurricane Katrina for the perception that his administration was slow to respond to the deadly 2005 Gulf Coast disaster because those who were killed and hurt by the storm were mostly minorities.

"It hurt," Bush said. "You can disagree with my politics, but don't ever accuse me of being a racist."

West made headlines in the storm's aftermath when he said during a televised fundraiser, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

"To accuse me of being a racist is disgusting. I feel strongly about it today just like I did then. You don't call a man a racist," he said. "I'm confident my heart is right on that issue."

"I put policy in place that I really thought helped all races in America, and I don't understand why anyone would accuse me of being a racist. It speaks to the ugliness of the American political scene."

But he admitted that he "made a mistake" by flying over the ravaged areas of the Gulf Coast after Katrina rather than landing and touring on foot, saying that at the time he was trying to minimize the amount of resources a visit by a president would require.

"It looked like a nuclear bomb had hit the coast. I shouldn't have flown over and looked. I made a mistake. I should have landed," said Bush. "The problem is that when the president lands resources are taken off the task at hand to protect the president, and I was worried about landing and being criticized for taking resources."

Defends 9/11 Response

Bush was also criticized for waiting several minutes before getting up and leaving the classroom of Florida schoolchildren he was visiting when he learned of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. He told Winfrey that he consciously tried to "remain calm," a characteristic he believes is important for every leader facing a crisis.

"I waited for an appropriate moment to get up and leave," said Bush of his reaction in the classroom in Sarasota.

George Bush Writes about Experience on 9/11

Despite being told not to return to Washington, D.C., after the attacks by his advisers and even by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bush told Winfrey that he was adamant about returning to the White House and did just that, acting against "everyone's advice.

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