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. MCF

    I wonder if Mrs. Bush is listening to what language Republicans are using to describe President Obama. It makes the words of Reid and Pelosi (inappropriate to be sure) pale in comparison.

    Let's ask our political leaders in both parties to sign a "civility pledge."

    April 28, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  2. cm

    Who cares, do she know how many people want this man to croak.

    April 28, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  3. Thomas Koshy

    The Secret Service has to be more vigilant,especially for president Obama.With enemies both foreign and domestic on the rise,should always expect the unexpected.May God protect our leaders in this troubled world.
    Thomas

    April 28, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  4. Observer

    Incredible! The right-wing conspiracy people now can think what was likely a common case of food-poisoning was intentional. If only they could spend so much time coming up with SOLUTIONS to our problems.

    April 28, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  5. chris s

    "The comments were uncalled for and graceless," Bush writes.

    Sorry Laura but I've got to argue with that one. I'm a huge fan of keeping your mouth shut if you have something less than kind to say however your husband was steering our nation full speed ahead toward the Niagra Falls of Troubleville.

    In fact, he and Dick and Donald and Wolfy and Rover all succeeded. We crashed big time!! If I were Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi I would have been up inside his grill like a bee every opportunity I had. In fact, I would have held daily press conferences and shouted to the world that W and his crew were nothing more than a bunch of criminal low grade morons studying hard to become imbeciles.

    April 28, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  6. JC in SC

    I would never wish any harm to come to Laura Bush or any of George Bush's aids.

    April 28, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  7. born yesterday

    May be eating too many German pigskin

    April 28, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  8. carlos diaz

    Just one word: paranoia

    April 28, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  9. zack

    He had Lyme Disease. He was treated for the disease the last year of his presidency.

    April 28, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  10. Dave

    I was poisoned in Germany once... by too much Apple Wine!

    April 28, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  11. Jason

    Wow, paranoid much? Every time I travel I get sick with something. It's normal. If someone was trying to kill your husband, they would have succeeded. There are plenty of extremely effective poisons they could have used and he wouldn't have just been bedridden.

    April 28, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  12. Teabag to the face

    It's decades long alcohol poisoning that damaged his brain but that happened before he became prez.... Otherwise, sounds like Laura is just trying to sell a book. It's money.

    April 28, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  13. samuel

    this is not strange coming from germany i lived there and know what they are capable of.

    April 28, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  14. Anonymous

    great – bush back in the news

    April 28, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  15. doug

    A majority of Democrats, probably more than 80% wished death to George and Laura.

    Not even 1% of republicans wish harm to Obama.

    SO......are you a good person? Show it at the voting booth, vote republican!

    April 28, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  16. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    This article should be real good for American German relations maybe the white house should eat all there meals on airforce one .

    April 28, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  17. Rachell

    Did they serve pretzals or something?

    April 28, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  18. DIANA

    Interesting, she doesn't say anything about the comments the Republicans are making on our current President.

    Reid and Pelosi were only speaking the truth and didn't blurt them out so everyone could hear them.

    April 28, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  19. linhster

    She's right indeed. It must be a bad case of food poisoning. It happens sometime to the people who's frequently put his foot in his mouth.

    April 28, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  20. Minnesotan

    Who cares what Laura or George Bush have to say? They've both proven themselves to be delusional whack jobs.

    April 28, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  21. Mark

    Maybe that's why Bush always acted so brain damaged. I think she really is just trying to get sympathy for her husband who was a terrible president and nearly destroyed this country with his poor governance.

    April 28, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  22. NoMoreBush's

    Poisoned? Highly unlikely. Just listening to your husband talk would be enough to make you all sick,. Wasn't it that trip when Angela Merkel nearly slapped W's hands off of her shoulders? Don't mess with the Merkel.....

    April 28, 2010 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  23. nunya

    I guess food poisoning was automatically ruled out.

    Idiots!

    April 28, 2010 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  24. tcaros

    Could it be that they are familiar with poisoning and tortoring enough to know?

    April 28, 2010 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  25. Carol

    Laura,
    PLEASE get professional help for yourself and your husband.

    April 28, 2010 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
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