Below, read selected highlights from our upcoming cover story and interview with George W. Bush.
At this relatively mellow moment in his life, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, wants nothing more than to be a good friend and neighbor. Standing on the front step of his red brick ranch house in suburban Dallas, sipping a cup of coffee, his black Scottish terriers Barney and Miss Beazley at his feet, he comes to life when he spots the guy next door getting ready to leave for work. "Sleeping in this morning?" he yells across the lawn with a friendly grin. "That's where Barney made his deposit," he adds, referring to an amusing story in his new memoir, Decision Points, about being leader of the free world one day and scooping Barney's mess off the neighbor's front yard the next.
Aside from a few Secret Service agents and a big American flag hanging near the front curb, there is little that sets this house apart from the others on the cul-de-sac where the former president and first lady live — except maybe the beautifully landscaped putting green that George, who loves golf, built on the empty lot he owns next door. "Laura turned it into Versailles," he says. "I turned it into Augusta."
HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR
INTERVIEW WITH GEORGE W. BUSH
"It's a word that doesn't fit into my vocabulary. Reinvention means you're kind of recreating somebody. I'm the same person, in terms of values. My priorities haven't changed."
On Staying Mum About the Current Political Debate
"I really think it's important for presidents to exit the stage gracefully. 'Statesman' gives the impression that every time a major issue comes up, I'll be popping off. And that's not what’s going to happen."
On Regrets from His Time in Office
"The decisions I made are done. And history will judge whether or not they were correct … so I’m comfortable that I made the best decisions I possibly could."
"I regret not finding Osama Bin Laden. I regret the fact that Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction that we thought. I don't regret removing him from power."
"Oftentimes history judges you on the decisions you make. They don't judge you on what would have happened in the absence of a decision. I believe the world would have been a lot worse off if Saddam would be in power today."
"It's important to take risks. I'm talking about living life to the fullest … part of life is seizing the moment."
On the Media and His Controversial Reputation
"In terms of what people think about me, the truth of the matter is, I guess I care to a certain extent, but not enough to go out in the public and plead for some kind of new understanding of me. I served. And now it’s time for the new man to serve. I have zero desire to be in the limelight."
On Picking Dick Cheney to be His Vice President
"Dick Cheney was a fine vice-president. Glad I picked him. I was pleased I picked him from the beginning, and I was pleased I picked him in the end. He didn't agree with me on every issue. I didn't expect him to. But when I made up my mind, he supported the decisions, as did everybody else in the administration. And frankly, if they couldn't support the decisions, it was time for them to move on."
On his Relationship with Wife Laura Bush
"I meant it when I said she was the greatest First Lady ever. Because she viewed the presidency and the First Lady as an opportunity to improve people's lives. It wasn't a burden. She put her heart and soul into the experience, just like I did. So we had a shared experience. That makes a good marriage better."
On Becoming a Grandparent
"I'm a little disappointed it hasn't happened yet. But the more disappointment I show, the less likely it is things are going to happen on the time table I want."
On Retirement and Advice to Boomers
"You never retire. At least I don't retire. I'm active."
"I'm just beginning to live the next chapter of my life. It's the introductory pages. In other words, politics…is not the end of my life."
On His New Book
"I hope my friends read it and say, 'Now I understand.' I hope my detractors read it and say, 'Well, I better understand.'"
AARP The Magazine's full interview with President George W. Bush will be published online on November 15.