April 28th, 2010
01:05 PM ET
5 years ago

Laura Bush alleges poisoning in new book

Former First Lady Laura Bush suggests in her forthcoming memoir that she, her husband, and several aides were poisoned during a 2007 visit to Germany for the G8 summit.
Former First Lady Laura Bush suggests in her forthcoming memoir that she, her husband, and several aides were poisoned during a 2007 visit to Germany for the G8 summit.

(CNN) - Laura Bush is suggesting she, her husband, and several aides were poisoned during a 2007 visit to Germany for the G8 summit – one of several new details in the former first lady's forthcoming memoir, "Spoken from the Heart."

Due to hit bookshelves May 4 but purchased by CNN at a Washington-area bookstore, Mrs. Bush says she and former President George W. Bush became mysteriously sick on the Germany trip to such a degree that the president became bedridden.

According to Mrs. Bush, doctors and the Secret Service investigated the possibility a poisoning had occurred but were unable to make a definitive conclusion.

News reports filed during the event show the White House did disclose Bush missed a series of morning sessions at the summit because he had contracted an apparent virus, but White House officials did not provide further details at that time.

"Nearly a dozen members of our delegation were stricken, even George, who started to feel sick during an early morning staff briefing," Mrs. Bush writes. "[O]ne of our military aides had difficulty walking and a White House staffer lost all hearing in one ear. Exceedingly alarmed, the Secret Service went on full alert, combing the resort for potential poisons."

"George felt so ill that he met with [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy and did not even stand up to greet him," she continues, adding later, "We never learned if any other delegations became ill, or if ours, mysteriously, was the only one."

Excerpts of the book were first published by the New York Times Tuesday.

The 432-page memoir is both a recount of the unique experience of being a first lady and a reflection of the eight years she spent in the White House as her husband's popularity gradually declined. But among the book's most poignant passages are those that delve into Mrs. Bush's involvement in a tragic 1963 car collision in Midland, Texas that killed her good friend who happened to be driving the other car.

The spotty details surrounding the accident became fodder for Bush's opponents during his first run for the White House and Mrs. Bush rarely addressed the matter in public. Mrs. Bush covers the accident extensively in the new memoir, revealing it occurred after she ran a stop sign in a rush to a drive-in theater. Then 17 years-old, Mrs. Bush was driving a car that collided with that of Mike Douglas, a fellow student at Mrs. Bush's school. Douglas was pronounced dead when he arrived at the hospital.

"In the aftermath, all I felt was guilty, very guilty. In fact, I still do. It is a guilt I will carry for the rest of my life, far more visible to me than the scar etched in the bump of my knee," Mrs. Bush writes.

"The whole time I was praying that the person in the other car was alive. In my mind, I was calling 'Please, God. Please, God. Please, God,' over and over and over again," Bush also writes.

Mrs. Bush writes she and a friend were talking when she ran the stop sign but also says the intersection was highly dangerous, the road was dark, and she could barely see the stop sign.

Guilt-ridden, Bush says she lost her faith for "many, many years."

"It was the first time that I had prayed to God for something, begged him for something, not the simple childhood wishing on a star but humbly begging for another human life. And it was as if no one heard. My begging, to my seventeen-year-old mind, had made no difference. The only answer was the sound of Mrs. Douglas's sobs on the other side of that thin emergency room curtain."

Much of the book's early chapters are devoted to a recounting of family history – with a special emphasis on the tragedies faced by her family as they weathered the Great Depression and her own personal beginnings as a young woman coming of age in Midland, Texas.

Bush writes passionately about the time she spent after college teaching minority students in the large cities of Texas, before she met her future husband.

But Mrs. Bush also reveals that she initially received a cold reception from Barbara Bush after marrying the future president.

"[F]rom the start, she was ferociously tart-tongued. She's never shied away from saying what she thinks," Bush writes. "She's managed to insult nearly all of my friends with one or another perfectly-timed acerbic comment."

The relationship improved, however, when Laura and George moved to Washington to be closer to his parents, she writes.

The memoir covers in detail many of the policy initiatives that the first lady undertook while in office, including her efforts to promote women's rights in Afghanistan and childhood literacy in the United States.

The first lady also acknowledges a misstep made by her twin daughters, who were caught trying to order alcoholic drinks in Austin, Texas before their 21st birthday.

"That night in Austin was just dumb, in the way that so many nineteen-year-olds are dumb," Bush writes.

"But what bothered me long after the incident was over was the image left behind in the public mind, that Barbara and Jenna were party girls."

Much as she did during her time as first lady, Bush for the most part avoids commenting on politics, but does point to the 1992 presidential campaign of Bush senior as being particularly nasty. Bush writes that during the campaign, critics created "the most hideous caricatures of George H.W. Bush until I barely recognized my own father-in-law."

Bush also criticizes former presidential candidate John Kerry for mentioning the sexual orientation of Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter during a 2004 debate, calling the move "cheap and tawdry" and suggests that the campaign opened the door to a more hostile atmosphere for political candidates and their families.

"The strategy of making Mary Cheney's private life an issue failed with the voters in November of 2004," Bush writes. "But in the years since, it has become acceptable to mock candidates and their families, and other elected officeholders, in highly personal ways; David Letterman feels free to ridicule Sarah Palin's teenage daughters, and the audience laughs. That is the legacy of the 2004 campaign."

Mrs. Bush also uses the memoir to air a few gripes against her husband's most vocal congressional critics, specifically Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Reid once called Bush a "loser," while Pelosi said he was an "incompetent leader."

"The comments were uncalled for and graceless," Bush writes. "While a president's political opponents, as well as his supporters, are entitled to make what they see as legitimate criticisms, and while our national debates should be spirited, these particular worlds revealed the petty and parochial nature of some who serve in Congress."

"George, as president, would never have used such language about them," she adds.

President George W. Bush's own memoir entitled "Decision Points" is set for a November 2010 release.

Updated at 6:40 p.m.


Filed under: Laura Bush • Popular Posts
soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. ATL Guy

    Wow, this is very shocking to hear. I didn't like his politics but I can never wish ill on our President (unlike Republicans who can't wait for something to happen to Obama).

    April 28, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  2. Rick Of PA

    The poisoning of anyone is totally unacceptable. However, History will eventually show that George W. was a totally incompetent leader from the moment of 9/11 to Katrina; to Afganistan; to Iraq and on to his final days of the collapse of the financial system (which his Administation encouraged and allowed to happen) on his watch.

    April 28, 2010 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  3. S Callahan

    "...while our national debates should be spirited, these particular words revealed the petty and parochial nature of some who serve in Congress."
    Just love Mrs. B....tellin' the truth!

    April 28, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  4. joe page

    I had this too! It was the liebekasse.

    April 28, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  5. D Smith

    As time goes by both Democrats and Republicans will wish that they had selected a President with the moral fiber and grace of President George W Bush and Laura Bush as first lady. They never lectured the American public or apologized over and over again as the current President seems inclined to do on a daily basis. There is no moral fiber or sense that this man loves his country or wishes it will. How can we feel good about ourselves if our President lacks love of country.

    April 28, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  6. Don Bryan

    The only real tragedy with this, if it was indeed poison, is that it didn't work.

    April 28, 2010 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  7. debbie

    Well I would certainly hope that no-one intentionally poisoned the leader of the free world. I would also certainly hope that due diligence was done to be sure that this assertion by the former First Lady isn't just speculation. In any event, it's fortunate for W that if he was intentionally poisoned, the poisoner was as effective at his job as W was at HIS.

    April 28, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  8. renobill

    Well, we all know Bushy had suffered brain damage somewhere along the way, but I always figured it was all the booze and dope he had used.

    April 28, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  9. Luke Brown

    Too bad she wasn't the President instead of him.

    Reid and Pelosi only said what most Americans knew to be the truth. It might have been graceless, but it seems minor to what Bush, Cheney, and Rove did to good people .. like Ann Richards, Al Gore, and war heroes Max Cleland, John McCain, and John Kerry... who got in W's path to power.

    "Graceles" doesn't even begin to cover it.

    April 28, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  10. Anon

    Too bad they didn't succeed. Maybe we wouldn't be in the huge mess we're in. But then again, by 2007 we were already in a mess caused by that war criminal Bush.

    April 28, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  11. Michael Alcorn

    I totally agree that who we have in congress these days and most political leaders these days are childish and down right petty. Especially people like Pelosi and Reid. George W Bush was the man we needed for the time he was in office. I thank God he was our president during 9/11 instead of some wishy washy democrat coward. Thank you George W Bush for your many years of service. Thank you Laura for being by his side during the toughest time of Georges life because it was your support that kept that man strong. If he would have lost strength, then we all would have paid for it. The poll rating could have been in the 0's and for you and I would have continued to pray for you and continued to publicly support you in every way. I voted for you for both terms and would have a 3rd if it were possible. PS to all who are going to cry around about my supportive comments for George and Laura... I don't care about your flames. Don't waste your time sending them cause I will not waste my time responding to them or even reading them for that matter.

    April 28, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  12. Ed in Reno, NV

    Dick Cheney, A.K.A. The Brain, was trying to take over the world.

    April 28, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  13. JDD

    The headline for this article, "Laura Bush alleges poisoning," is completely false.

    Laura Bush recounts that the facts that doctors and secret service looked into the possibility of poisoning – and that they could not reach a definitive answer. This is "reported" as an allegation by the former First Lady?

    CNN, do you want to get back in the game or not?

    Your headline is completely false.

    April 28, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  14. Roy, Texas

    I'm a native Texan and have never been fond of Gov. Bush, but have always been pleased with Laura. She's such a classy lady.

    April 28, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  15. Brian

    I am glad GB did not die; otherwise, he would be made into a martyr or something larger than life by the GOP and the Right.

    April 28, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  16. Ipploit

    Do you all at CNN even read the articles you post? The headline reads " TRENDING: Laura Bush alleges poisoning in new book", the body of the article states that Ms. Bush says that "Secret Service investigated the possibility a poisoning had occurred but were unable to make a definitive conclusion". Ms Bush did not allege that anyone was poisioned she alleged that poisoning was investigated.

    April 28, 2010 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  17. Tommy Mack

    I hated Bush, but I never want a human being (especially the US President) to pass away early. Of course, it would have meant that Cheney officially became what he already was: the real president.

    April 28, 2010 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  18. sean

    anything to get some sympathy from the public.

    April 28, 2010 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  19. lindita

    She is a true person. I adore her.

    April 28, 2010 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  20. PK California

    I'm sure that this item in the book will help sell a lot of copies. If someone succeeded in an attempt on their lives it would have been disasterous, unless Cheney was included in the attempt. Bush was bad enough but if Cheney was left in charge, none of us would be here to read anything! WWlll

    April 28, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  21. Pat

    So we have liberal democrat groups that try to kill our presidents!!!! and everybody is all bent out of shape with the tea party, who are peaceful. Yet we have libs trying to kill our president, because they don't like the war in Iraq, then they vote in their own lib president (Obama) and what does he do, he sends 100,000 troops to another country (Afghanastan) were they have killed thousands of innocent civilians. These lib dems might be some of the dumbest people in america they don't even know who to trust. Seriously, get a clue the 60's ended 40 years ago, there is no one left to fight, everybody is an american except for you!

    April 28, 2010 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  22. James of Denver

    Really, poison? Really? This sounds more like hype to get Pickle's book sales off the ground. How in the world would this over-reved security rich (I'm in an undisclosed bunker) administration ever get close enough to an external source of poison? This is all filler for the former-first lady to make more money.

    April 28, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  23. dAvid, CA

    That Dick Cheney! I tell ya!

    April 28, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  24. Zoey

    Hm, traveled to a foreign country. Get sick. Think you were poisoned.
    Right. Have some paranoia with your nuts Laura.

    April 28, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  25. KenS

    "While a president's political opponents, as well as his supporters, are entitled to make what they see as legitimate criticisms, and while our national debates should be spirited, these particular words revealed the petty and parochial nature of some who serve in Congress."

    Interesting. DO you suppose such comments would have occurred had her husband's administration not called those who disagreed, those with legitimate criticisms TRAITORs? That we wanted the terrorists to win?

    I think the standard for 'petty' was exceeded early and often by our last president.

    April 28, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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