Poisoning at the G-8? Laura Bush says that was a concern in 2007

April 28, 2010

Were President George W. Bush and his entourage poisoned at a G-8 summit in Germany back in 2007?

Former first lady Laura Bush says that was a big concern at the time.

She made the comment in her new memoir, “Spoken from the Heart,” which is due to be released in early May. The New York Times and Politico obtained copies of the book.
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The Group of Eight summit at Heiligendamm, Germany, came at a time when there had been several high-profile poisonings in the previous year, including one with suspected nuclear material.

“I arrived (at the summit) and began my events but by the afternoon of (June) seventh, I could barely stand up,” Laura Bush wrote in extracts published by Politico.

“Over the next day nearly a dozen members of our delegation were stricken, even George, who started to feel sick during an early morning staff meeting.”

“Exceedingly alarmed, the Secret Service went on full alert, combing the resort for potential poisons,” the former first lady wrote.

Some of the reactions were severe. A military aide had difficulty walking, and a White House staffer lost hearing in one year, she said.

“The overriding fear was that terrorists had gotten control of a dangerous substance and planted it at the resort,” Laura Bush wrote.

In the end, she said, the best doctors could figure was that the delegation had been hit by “a virus that attacks a nerve in the inner ear and is prevalent in Heiligendamm,” Bush wrote.

Some of those affected never fully recuperated. The military aide never fully regained his normal walking gait, and the senior staffer has not regained hearing in affected ear, she said.

The former first lady also publicly discussed for the first time a fatal traffic accident she had when she was 17.

She said she and a girlfriend were heading to a drive-in movie in 1963 when she ran a stop sign and slammed into a vehicle driven by Mike Douglas, a star athlete and popular student at her school.

Laura Bush wrote that she was wracked by guilt for years after, especially for not attending the funeral or reaching out to the boy’s family, the Times reported. She said even as her car flew into the air, she was praying the other driver would be OK.
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“I lost my faith that November, lost it for many, many years,” she wrote. “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.”

Bush said that while she has encouraged young drivers involved in accidents to speak to counselors about it, “I didn’t do any of that.”

“Most of how I ultimately coped with the crash was by trying not to talk about it, not to think about it, to put it aside. Because there wasn’t anything I could do. Even if I tried,” she said.

The former first lady takes some of her husband’s political opponents to task for their comments about him. She also talks a little undiplomatically about some U.S. allies.

“The royal family is not without its quirks,” she observed.

She told a story of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, coming for a visit.

“They requested glasses of ice before we began a long receiving line,” she wrote. “The staff dutifully produced them, and the prince removed a flask from his pocket and added to each a small splash of what I presume was straight gin, so that they might be fortified before the hour of shaking hands.”

For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Christian Charisius (Laura Bush signs bricks at a ceremony on June 7, 2007, in Wismar, Germany, during the G-8 summit. Bush writes in her memoir that by the afternoon of that day she was so ill she could barely stand); Reuters/Jim Young (The Bushes as they depart for Germany in 2007)

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Too little, too late.

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