WASHINGTON (AP) — Dana Perino, President George W. Bush's spokeswoman at the end of his presidency, is out with a book that is part memoir, part career advice. Perino is the only Republican woman ever to serve as White House press secretary and is now a co-cost of "The Five" on Fox News Channel.
Five tidbits from "And the Good News Is ...: Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side," which goes on sale Tuesday:
LIFTING VEIL ON WALTER REED
Perino offers a behind-the-scenes look into some of a president's toughest moments — the emotional private meetings with critically wounded troops at Walter Reed military hospital. She writes that she worried that families sitting in bedside vigils would be angry with Bush for sending their loved ones to war, but usually they welcomed and thanked him. In her first visit, a Marine opened his eyes for the first time since being injured by a roadside bomb when the president awarded him the Purple Heart, leaving Bush and everyone else in the room in tears. The Marine died a few days later. She also writes of a mother who did not give Bush a warm welcome, but instead questioned why it was her child and not his who lay in the hospital bed. "That mama sure was mad at me," she quotes Bush as saying as they headed back to the White House, a tear running down his cheek. "And I don't blame her a bit."
A DEMOCRATIC FRIEND IN WASHINGTON
Despite partisan differences, Perino writes that she's had a good relationship with President Barack Obama. The two met when they were seated across from each other at the Gridiron Club dinner in 2005 — when he was a new senator and she the new White House deputy press secretary. "We laughed our butts off for four hours," she wrote, adding that Obama also took her across the room to meet his wife. She next saw Obama three years later, when the Democratic presidential nominee came to a White House meeting on the financial crisis. She writes that he wrapped her in a hug in front of a roomful of people and told her the night they spent together was his favorite of all time in Washington. "I really turned red — especially since I wasn't sure everyone else knew what he was talking about!" she writes.
POLITICS - TO ENGAGE OR STAY OUT?
Perino writes how every president coming on the end of eight years can expect to face criticism from candidates running to replace him. As Obama's team tries to figure out just how hard to push back, Perino writes of her concern about letting Bush get "bruised and battered" while she stayed out of the fray. She did so, on directions from the top and writes that even if Bush wanted her to be a counterattack dog, it's not her style. "But I wonder if things may have been different if once in a while I'd bared some teeth," she writes. Perino did have a secret way of firing back when the briefing questioning got heated, underneath the podium. "I'd just rest my hand next to my water, out of view of anyone, keep a pleasant look on my face, and flip 'em the bird."
WHITE HOUSE CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEATLH
Perino writes that while trying to control the White House message, she should have been working harder to control her health and nutrition. She writes that by the end of the Bush's time in office, she couldn't sleep without a pill, was eating little and was so addicted to caffeine that she took one of the Diet Cokes set out for Bush during an official luncheon in Albania. She says she suffered from frequent migraines, needed back adjustments three times a week from the White House medical staff, felt numb from her right elbow to her fingertips and experienced such a loud ringing in her ears that she sometimes couldn't hear reporters' questions in the daily briefings. She writes that Bush's physician correctly predicted the symptoms would go away once she left the White House, although she says it took several months.
Perino's book does not include any revelations that portray Bush in a negative light. She writes of her anger at Scott McClellan, a former Bush press secretary, for writing a book that was blisteringly critical of Bush's leadership. She and Bush were blindsided by the memoir's tone, she writes, and she was upset and worried about how to respond to the media. She says Bush summoned her to the Oval Office and told her to forgive McClellan and not let the book distract from the important work they needed to do. She asked Bush, "Can I throw him under the bus first?" She writes that Bush told her no and added as she walked out, "By the way, I don't think you'd ever do this to me." Indeed. After all, the book's title is "And the Good News Is."
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