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

Laura Bush alleges poisoning in new book

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/28/art.laurabush.0909.gi.jpg caption="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. A Mom of 4

    So if poisoning was suspected, were any tests done on the President or anyone else that got ill to confirm? My guess it was common food poisioning. I highly doubt it was intentional.

    I've had food poisioning so bad it put me in bed for 3 days and believe me it is not fun. I would venture to say that most people have had at least a mild case of food poisioning on an annual basis. It really doesn't take much. Think about it, have you ever gotten ill an hour or two after eating? Chances are it was food poisioning.

    April 28, 2010 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  2. JOhn

    If calling the president an 'incompetent leader." is wrong, why stay silent when your party attacks this presdent with fare worse statments that aren't even true? Bush was an incompetent leader by all measures.

    April 28, 2010 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  3. Walt Wentz

    "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."

    Well, der... does it occur to anyone that this comment seems particularly apposite today?

    April 28, 2010 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  4. Ben in Texas

    I've heard some lame excuses from the Bush crime family, but "the stop sign was small" has to be right up there at the top. Has anyone ever seen a stop sign that was small? I've only ever seen 2 sizes of stop sign: regular and large.

    April 28, 2010 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  5. Thomas

    Hate to break it to ya Laura, he was incompetent.

    April 28, 2010 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  6. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    That's horrible that anyone would want to poison the Bushes or staff.
    Regardless of my dislike of George W. Bush, I do not wish him or his family harm.

    "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." ~ Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    April 28, 2010 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  7. KDS

    We all would like to assume that the president just got a virus. But the truth is we live in a scary world. When the president travels abroad, the scope of attack is greater. Mrs. Bush I'm sorry for all the criticism you have had to endure during your years in the White House. You were such an amazing First Lady and I tip hat to you for standing by your husband during the tough years. Even thought our economy sank (I am not blaming your husband) your husband kept us safe from another terrorist attack.

    Good luck with your Memoir and I am looking forward to reading your husbands as well.

    April 28, 2010 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  8. Larry L

    Maybe if the Dummy hadn't stripped the resources of NIH, CDC, and other health agencies he'd of had the capability to identify the source of the problem. It could be the German Chancellor was just trying to avoid another neck-rub delivered by "W" in front of the World media.

    April 28, 2010 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  9. TM

    Gilt-ridden?? Who spell-checks these articles? Shouldn't that be "guilt-ridden" instead? And this is one of the world's leading news sources. You would think someone would utilize the spelling and grammar check before an article goes online.

    April 28, 2010 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  10. Shelly Stone

    Maybe it was payback for that creepy shoulder-rubbing thing he did to Angela Merkel.

    April 28, 2010 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  11. harry reid

    Jay, Bush may or may not be what you think. I am disappointed a bit by his term. But I am more disappointed by traitors like the Democrats, the once great New York Times, Washington Post, etc. If you think Bush did a bad job after 911, try to realistically think about what the Democrats had to offer as an alternative; nothing.

    April 28, 2010 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  12. Julian

    And Bush Sr. was poisoned by the emperor of Japan.

    April 28, 2010 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  13. Michael

    I just thank God that President Bush didn't have Obamacare. He would still be waiting for treatment.

    April 28, 2010 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  14. Wisconsinite

    Ever hear of FOOD poisoning??? If it was an attempt at REAL poisoning . . . . well, let's just say it was a poor attempt and leave it at that.

    "Reid once called Bush a "loser" while Pelosi said he was an "incompetent leader."

    Actually, he WAS an incompetent leader . . . that's why we had Darth Cheney, instead of your husband, in charge of the dark direction the country was taken in for too many years, Mrs. Bush!!!

    April 28, 2010 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  15. windwalker6842

    Poor ole bush everyone is against him and his skank for a wife. He and cheney both were the worst and most corrupt public servants in the history of america and deserve no sympathy. Where was a John Hinkley when we needed one!!!!

    April 28, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  16. Cynthia

    She was "GILT-RIDDEN'? Please, you are supposed to be professionals. Know you not the difference between GILT, and
    GUILT? At least you could have more efficient proof-readers.

    April 28, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  17. Elijah

    Well then he shouldn't have been for the New World Order.

    April 28, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  18. Repulsican Nerds

    Oh right, any excuse (from the obedient, political , Stepford wife no less) to create an excuse for what a nimrod this guy was as president while our country crumbled. A few less shoulder massages on Merkel would have been a good start, King George.

    April 28, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  19. "however your husband was steering our nation full speed ahead toward the Niagra Falls of Troubleville"

    well said

    never again let the GOP in that office

    April 28, 2010 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  20. John Q.

    I don't care what others say about her husband etc., I always liked her. I think the ex-Prez lucked out when she married him.

    April 28, 2010 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  21. CRV

    George Bush Poisoned the United States.

    April 28, 2010 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  22. Buster

    It was them nasty lib'rals done it!

    April 28, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  23. wake up

    I never thought I'd say this...but I miss George W Bush and his wife. Obama is the worst president in american history. He is fraud, a liar and must genuinely hope America fails.

    April 28, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  24. Jack

    too bad they failed

    April 28, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  25. JFS

    Well there you go........that explains everything !!!

    April 28, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
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