Bush on Tour: Emotional, Sickened, Disgusted, But Not Apologetic

AP Photo

AP Photo

With former President George W. Bush's memoir "Decision Points" hitting bookstores Tuesday, Bush, who has kept a low public profile since leaving office, is speaking up about his book and some of his most controversial presidential judgment calls.

"Somebody said, congratulations, your popularity is way up since you left office. And my answer is so what?" Bush quipped to the Today Show's Matt Lauer in an interview that aired Monday night. "If you chase popularity, you're chasing a moment. You're chasing a poof of air."

That's the tone the former president has taken on his tour to promote his book, which covers 14 "decision points" in his presidency and the events that triggered those decisions.

Bush has said he will "emerge then submerge," creating buzz about his 481-page memoir before returning to living life largely out of the public eye. He will make a rare appearance Thursday in Washington, D.C., a city he refers to as "the swamp," to speak about his memoir at a Bush-Cheney Alumni Association event at the Chamber of Commerce, which is expected to draw over 450 people, former White House aides tell Fox News.

The former president's responses to questions about his decisions made while in the White House have been measured, but unapologetic. "Let's talk about water-boarding," he said frankly to Lauer. "...I said to our team, are the techniques legal? And a legal team says yes, they are. And I said, ‘use them.'"

"I am not a lawyer, but you've got to trust the judgment of people around you. And I do," he said. Asked by Lauer whether he fielded only the legal opinions he wanted from "their own people," a charge leveled by former Republican co-chair of the 9/11 Commission Tom Kean, Bush said, "He obviously doesn't know. I hope Mr. Kean reads the book. That's why I've written the book. He can draw whatever conclusions they want. But I will tell you this, using those techniques saved lives. My job was to protect America. And I did."

Bush says in the book that he was "sickened" when weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq, but asked if he ever considered apologizing, he responded, "Apologizing would basically say the decision was a wrong decision, and I don't believe it was the wrong decision."

He also details the reasoning behind his controversial approach to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, which "cast a cloud" over his second term, Bush writes.

Notably missing from the former president's comments has been any criticism of his successor, an unofficial policy Bush has followed since leaving office.

"I am trying to regain a sense of anonymity," he said. "...I don't think it's good for the presidency for a former president to be opining about his successor. President Obama has got plenty of critics, and I'm just not going to be one."

Bush is slated to appear in interviews with Oprah, the Tonight Show's Jay Leno.

You can also catch him Tuesday night for his first cable news interview on Hannity at 9pm ET.

White House Correspondent Mike Emanuel contributed to this report.