- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 9, 2010

DALLAS (AP) - Autograph-seekers descended on a Dallas shopping center Tuesday as former President George W. Bush officially kicked off the release of his new memoir, receiving praise for his candor at a hometown bookstore even as his renewed defense of waterboarding as an interrogation tactic was greeted with derision overseas.

First in line at the Borders store about a mile from Bush’s Dallas home were Terry and Tammy Jones of suburban Justin, who camped out overnight. They said when they told Bush of their wait, he said he’d sign their books “with admiration,” shaking 53-year-old Terry Jones‘ hand and kissing his wife’s.

“Eighteen hours for two seconds and a kiss on the hand,” Tammy Jones, 52, said with a smile.

Terry Jones said he admired Bush because “when he makes a decision, he sticks with it.”

But such steadfastness also prompted criticism Tuesday in Europe, where reports about Bush’s memoir “Decision Points” focused on waterboarding.

In an interview in The Times of London, Bush said the tactic forced the alleged 9/11 mastermind to provide information that prevented attacks in London’s Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf business district. Prime Minister David Cameron’s office subsequently restated the British government’s belief that waterboarding is illegal. Kim Howells, a former lawmaker who chaired the House of Commons’ intelligence and security committee, expressed doubts about Bush’s claim.

In France, the Le Monde newspaper noted an “absence of regret” in Bush’s defense of waterboarding.

In a more lighthearted moment, Bush said in interview that aired Tuesday on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” that writing the memoir “was an easy process.”

“A lot of people don’t think I can read, much less write,” he joked.

As in the book, Bush also recounted to Winfrey the mistakes of his presidency, saying he still feels “sick” about the fact no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. His response to Hurricane Katrina could have been quicker, he said, and he acknowledged he didn’t see the financial meltdown coming.

Bush, however, had nothing negative to say about President Barack Obama, whom Winfrey famously supported in 2008.

“I didn’t like it when people criticized me,” Bush said. “And so you’re not going to see me out there chirping away (at Obama). And I want our president to succeed. I love our country.”

Largely out of the public view since he left office, Bush is now vigorously promoting his book, with planned appearances across the country this week and as the Miami Book Fair International’s featured author this weekend.

Bush even called in to conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh’s radio program Tuesday, voicing support for an extension of his administration’s tax cuts and denying reports he privately criticized fellow Republican John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate. But when asked his opinion about Arizona’s controversial immigration legislation, Bush told Limbaugh: “you’re trying to get me to make news.”

“I don’t want to make news, I want to sell books of course,” Bush said laughing.

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