Ex-PresidentW. was, by turns, easygoing, relaxed, and completely serious in his local appearance yesterday, The Grand Rapids Press has reported.
“Yeah, we waterboarded,” Bush said of the terrorist who masterminded the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, DC. He said that that event shaped his presidency and convinced him that the nation was in a war against terror.
“I’d do it again to save lives.”
In a speech and question and answer session before the Economic Club in Grand Rapids, Bush said “Getting rid ofwas the right thing to do and the world is a better place without him.”
“You are not going to see me in the public square criticizing the President,” he said.
Bush emphasized the role that religion played in his life in the White House.
“I prayed a lot. I really did. I prayed before every major speech. I prayed before debates. It was a very important experience.”
The speech may offer a glimpse of Bush’s upcoming memoir, Decision Points, which will be released in November. He said that it would dissect the major decisions of his presidency.
“I’m trying to regain a sense of anonymity,” Bush said in February.
“I didn’t like it when a certain former president made my life miserable,” he said, referring to ex-Presidentand his frequent criticisms of Bush.
Ex-has been particularly disparaging of Obama’s conduct on security issues. Last year, he blamed Obama for projecting “weakness” by delaying his decision on whether to send additional troops to Afghanistan.
Referring to his choice to wear an old tux and Laura Bush’s reaction to it, Bush said ““Read my lips, no new tuxes.””
He said that his greatest disappointment as President was failing to push through Social Security reform. Bush said that the GOP leadership balked at the proposal, saying that it would cost them votes.
In addition, he admitted that the unsuccessful 1992 campaign of his father, then-President George H. W. Bush, was one of the hardest years of his life.
Bush recalled the morning of the 2001 attacks, how he found out that first one, then two planes had hit the World Trade Center and then a third plane had hit the Pentagon.
The third plane, he said “was a declaration of war on our country.”
Bush recounted the story of ex-East Grand Rapids resident Bill Krissoff, a 61-year-old orthopedic surgeon who pressed Bush in 2007 to let him join the Navy as a combat surgeon in honor of his son.
25-year-old Marine LieutenantKrissoff had been killed in a roadside bomb explosion in Iraq in December of 2006.
Dr. Krissoff served a year in Iraq and, at the age of 63, is now serving in Afghanistan, he said.
“America produces amazing people like Dr. Krissoff,” Bush said.
A slew of high-profile figures were in attendance, including ex-President Bill Clinton,, ex-Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, and ex-NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw.
Jim Dunlap, senior executive vice president of Huntington Bancshares, was named Business Person of the Year. He chairs The Right Place Inc. and previously chaired boards for several local charities, including Heart of West Michigan United Way, the YMCA, and major events for DeVos Children’s Hospital, the American Cancer Society, and the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame.
Mike Jandernoa, ex-CEO of Perrigo Co., received the Econ Club’s Slykhouse Lifetime Achievement award. The award honors Jandernoa’s efforts to help the region economically flourish.