Bush memoir launch held back until after elections

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The publishers of the widely anticipated memoir from former US president George W Bush have set a 9 November date for its release, precisely – and surely not coincidentally – one week after Americans vote in mid-term congressional elections that are likely to see substantial gains for the Republicans.

To be entitled Decision Points, the book will not be a traditional chronological narration of his experiences but will focus rather on the 14 most pivotal turning points in the ex-president's life, ranging from the moments of national drama in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks to the invasion of Iraq and the day he pledged to give up alcohol.

Few yesterday saw anything haphazard in the timing of the publication date. Launching the book in the days before the mid-term elections might have led to criticism that the author meant to meddle in the outcome, which would have been at odds with his carefully crafted post-presidential image of non-partisanship.

Alternatively, however, senior Republicans may have made it plain that putting Bush back on the public stage just before the elections would hardly be desirable.

"It is obvious they don't want any revelations in the book to interfere with Republican chances in the mid-term elections," Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, said last night. "I think specifically also, he does not want to remind Americans of the reasons why they disliked him and installed the Democrats in his place. The last thing Republican leaders want right before the election is George Bush stealing the headlines."

The book, with a cover featuring a photograph of the former president looking pensive in the Rose Garden, a briefing book under his arm, is sure to be a best-seller as other presidential memoirs before have been, regardless of the rock-bottom approval ratings for much of his time in office.

Almost as much expectation, meanwhile, awaits the publication next month of a separate memoir by Laura Bush. Entitled From the Heart, it will go on sale on 4 May.

Norman Ornstein, of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank in Washington, believes that by waiting until 9 November, Mr Bush may be hoping to ride whatever pro-Republican wave comes out of the mid-term elections. "If there are strong Republican gains, which there will be, it might help him," he said. "I think there will be at least a modest refurbishment of his image and it will be deserved."

With the exception of a handful of public speeches, Mr Bush has kept a decidedly low profile since leaving office and, unlike his former number two, Dick Cheney, has forsworn political attacks against his successor, Barack Obama. "Cheney has been out there just pounding away at Obama and using remarkably fiery rhetoric," Mr Ornstein said. "But Bush has stayed out of it."

This, according to the publishers, Crown Books, a unit of Random House, has not just been about courtesy. "Since leaving the Oval Office, President Bush has given virtually no interviews or public speeches about his presidency," it said. "Instead, he has spent almost every day writing Decision Points, a strikingly personal and candid account revealing how and why he made the defining decisions in his consequential presidency and personal life."

Mr Bush has reportedly finished a first draft of the book and, with the help of former White House speech writer Chris Michel, is apparently now in the editing process at his Dallas home.

Last year the ex-president briefly hinted at his motivation for writing the book. "I want people to understand the environment in which I was making decisions. I want people to get a sense of how decisions were made and I want people to understand the options that were placed before me," he said.

Other possible reasons: the desire to repair his reputation and legacy. And there is the small matter of money. The self-restraint to date of Mr Bush contrasts starkly with the monetary gains allegedly made by another ex-politician of Republican stripe, Sarah Palin. Since abandoning the governorship of Alaska last year, Ms Palin has earned as much as $12m, according to some reports. The Daily Beast reported that she was paid $7m as an advance for her first book, Going Rogue.