A Bush loyalist no more

PHOENIX - President Bush "convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment," and has engaged in "self-deception" to justify his political ends, Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary, writes in a critical new memoir about his years in the West Wing.

In addition, McClellan writes, the decision to invade Iraq was a "serious strategic blunder," and yet, in his view, it was not the biggest mistake the Bush White House made. That, he says, was "a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed."

A theme in the book is that the White House suffered from a "permanent campaign" mentality, and that policy decisions were inextricably interwoven with politics.

McClellan's book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," will be available on Monday. It is the first negative account by a member of the tight circle of Texans around Bush. McClellan, 40, went to work for Bush when he was governor of Texas and was the White House press secretary from July 2003 to April 2006.

The revelations in the book were first reported on Politico.com by Mike Allen, who wrote that he bought the book at a Washington store.

Current Bush press secretary Dana Perino said that the reports on the book had been described to Bush, and that she did not expect him to comment. "He has more pressing matters than to spend time commenting on books by former staffers," she said.

Commuter trains crash

NEWTON, Mass. - Two commuter trains collided during the evening rush hour outside Boston yesterday, injuring a dozen passengers and trapping the seriously injured operator of one train, authorities said.

There were "multiple injuries" in the above-ground accident on the city's "T" system near a Woodland Station station in suburban Newton, said Joe Pesaturo, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

There was no immediate word on the root cause of the crash, which occurred on a branch of the Green Line, part of the MBTA system serving greater Boston.

The Boston crash came just hours after an elevated train derailed in Chicago, sending 14 people to hospitals. Officials quickly blamed the derailment on operator error.

Olmert pressured to resign

JERUSALEM - Israel's powerful defense minister yesterday called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to step down amid a burgeoning corruption scandal, and threatened to bring down the government if the Israeli leader does not comply.

If Labor Party leader Ehud Barak carries out his promise to withdraw from Olmert's fragile coalition, new elections could usher in a government opposed to current peace talks with the Palestinians and Syria.

Calls for Olmert's resignation gained volume this week after U.S. businessman Morris Talansky testified that he had given $150,000 of his own money to Olmert over the years. Talansky said that the payments, often cash-stuffed envelopes, helped fund Olmert's expensive lifestyle that included luxury hotels and first-class travel.

Cop slain after their attack

NEW YORK - Bronx prosecutors say four men in their 20s have been sentenced for assaulting an off-duty New York City police officer in 2006.

The four pleaded guilty to charges including gang assault in the attack on Eric Hernandez.

They were sentenced yesterday to prison terms ranging from five to 10 years.

After the attack at a restaurant, the victim, who wasn't wearing his uniform, drew his gun on a bystander he mistakenly thought was one of his attackers. Uniformed police officers saw Hernandez holding the gun and shot him. Hernandez died from the gunshot wound.

A fifth suspect, who was 15 at the time of the attack, also pleaded guilty and will be sentenced June 5. A sixth suspect is still awaiting trial.

2 GIs killed in firefight

BAGHDAD - U.S. troops captured eight suspected insurgents, including a man believed to be a longtime al Qaeda in Iraq leader who was involved in a June 30 attack on American forces in a remote area in Anbar province known as Donkey Island, the U.S. military said.

The fierce 23-hour battle at Donkey Island left two Americans dead, along with 35 insurgents. The suspect was captured along with three others on Tuesday in Baghdad, the military said.

Four other men believed to have links to senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders were captured yesterday in Mosul, according to the statement.

Higher prices, no peanuts

TEMPE, Ariz. - In what could be the ultimate cost-cutting move by airlines buffeted by sky-high fuel prices, US Airways Group says that it will eliminate free peanuts and pretzels in coach class on all its domestic flights starting June 1.

US Airways also says that it has matched last week's fare hikes by United Airlines, AMR Corp.'s American Airlines and Delta Air Lines Inc. The increases are from $10 to $60 per round trip and vary based on the length of the flight.

The airline is still providing complimentary soft drinks. *

-Daily News wire services