George W. Bush said Tuesday that his upcoming book begins with an anecdote about his wife persuading him to give up drinking by pushing him to decide whether he preferred booze to fatherhood.
Bush said "Decision Points," due for release in November, opens with the scene and him questioning whether he loved booze more than his wife, Laura. He said he realized he had an addictive personality and quit drinking cold turkey.
That act set him on the path to the presidency, Bush said in his address to a wind energy convention in downtown Dallas.
Bush said the book is less autobiography and more an analysis of key decisions in his life, both before and after he was elected president. Topics will include the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the troop surge in Iraq, his responses to terrorists attacks and Hurricane Katrina and the financial meltdown.
He said he hopes the book will be a tool for historians evaluating his presidency.
"I don't think you can come to a definitive conclusion about a presidency until the passage of time," Bush said. "I want to put you in my position."
Bush, who left office in January 2009 and moved with his wife to Dallas, appeared relaxed and in good humor throughout the speech. The 63-year-old riffed on retirement, joking that he was playing shuffleboard after the speech and that his domestic agenda now consists of taking out the trash and doing the dishes.
He plugged Laura Bush's recent book "Spoken from the Heart," telling conventioneers, "You ought to buy it." He said his wife's purchase of their Dallas home, where they moved after leaving the White House, was a "faith-based initiative — since I hadn't seen it."
He also joked about the comedown of post-presidential life, saying he realized how different his life was when he was walking his dog Barney through his new neighborhood.
"There I was," Bush said. "Former president of the United States, with a plastic bag in my hand, picking up what I had been dodging for eight solid years."
When he wasn't dishing out one-liners, Bush at times appeared sentimental. He praised his father, the 41st president, for helping him become the 43rd. "I never would be sitting here without the unconditional love of an awesome man," he said.
Although Bush was criticized for not acknowledging errors during his presidency, he was more candid at the convention. He said his biggest regret was not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that he was misled by intelligence reports.
Bush said he failed at elevating political discourse and said politics are "rough and ugly." He said he remains disappointed he could not pass meaningful reform on Social Security and immigration, and that it was a tactical error not to tackle immigration after he won re-election in 2004.
"The sad thing is you don't get do-overs," he said. "You've got to make the calls. I got some right. I got some wrong."