- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 28, 2004

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Former presidential counselor Karen Hughes kicked off a six-week national book tour yesterday with unblinking support for President Bush and the war in Iraq.

Speaking about her memoir “Ten Minutes from Normal,” Mrs. Hughes said she was upset by recent contentions by former White House counterterrorism chief Richard A. Clarke that the administration didn’t take the threat from al Qaeda seriously enough before the September 11 attacks.

Mrs. Hughes called Mr. Clarke’s criticism the “Washington blame game.”

“The only person responsible for the al Qaeda attacks on America was al Qaeda,” Mrs. Hughes said. “I’ve been very distressed and almost sickened as I’ve watched over the last week the distortion that I’ve seen.”

The book release comes nearly two years after Mrs. Hughes traded her pressure-cooker days at the White House for a life in Austin more “attuned to the school and church calendar.”

Mrs. Hughes’ memoir is the story of balancing her personal life as a wife and mother with her job as one of the president’s most trusted advisers.

“I always considered myself a normal person,” she said. “Except that I have a boss and a friend who became president of the United States.”

Mrs. Hughes said she tried to bring a “working mom’s” perspective to the White House, which she said is reflected in her memoir.

“All these decisions have an impact on real people,” she said.

Mrs. Hughes continues to advise Mr. Bush and said she expects to join his re-election campaign full time in August.

“I believe in the president,” she said. “One of my priorities this year is to help re-elect the president.”

Her memoir calls Mr. Bush “powerful and tough” in the war on terror.

She said Mr. Bush helped compose speeches, revised Middle East policy and marched nations to war without fear or doubt after terrorists struck on September 11, 2001.

“I think more highly of the president today and of Mrs. Bush than the day I went to work for him,” she said. “I believe the account that I give of my time in the White House, and certainly our response to September 11 is very accurate and that some of the things we’ve been seeing and hearing are distortions of what really happened.”

Mrs. Hughes wrote that she and Mr. Bush talked about the difficult decision to go to war in Iraq.

“‘Is it right?’ I asked him,” Mrs. Hughes wrote. Mr. Bush responded, “Absolutely.”

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