November 10th, 2007
07:37 AM ET
15 years ago

Ed Henry: Bush 41 feels his son's pain

President Bush and his father in Kennebunkport, Maine.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The current President Bush prides himself on saying he doesn't pay much attention to the critics who bombard him via television, newspapers and the Internet. But I want to let you in on a little secret: his father keeps tabs on all of it.

I was reminded of this fact recently when a friend of mine spent a little time at the swank Kennebunkport, Maine, home of former President George Herbert Walker Bush. The former President, known as "Bush 41," showed off his study and confided that he has several television sets where he can watch all of the cable networks simultaneously when a big story breaks - and monitor every word said about his son, a.k.a. "Bush 43".

I was reminded of this phenomenon again Friday, when USA Today published an interview with Bush 41 timed to Saturday's unveiling of his refurbished presidential library in College Station, Texas. The patriarch of the Bush family lashed out, declaring criticism of his son's handling of the Iraq war is "grossly unfair."

"Do they want to bring back Saddam Hussein, these critics?" the elder Bush railed to the newspaper. "Do they want to go back to the status quo ante? ... Do they think life would be better in the Middle East if Saddam were still there?"

Actually there is a major debate over whether the Middle East would be more secure if Hussein had not been toppled, but that's not the point of this story. Andy Card, who served in high posts in both Bush administrations, told me what he thinks motivated Bush 41's comments.

"It's a lot about a father caring about his son," said Card. "Like any parent, he aches for his child. But there's also a certain degree of empathy."

Card is right. Bush 41 has a unique perspective on what it's like to take the slings and arrows of being commander-in-chief, especially when it comes to dealing with a war in the Persian Gulf. After all, he's only the second former president in history, after John Adams, to watch his son follow him into the White House.

As for Bush 43, he's still claiming not to care about the naysayers. "Popularity is just like, it comes and goes," the current President told a German television interviewer from RTL this week. "And I've never been one to really worry about that, you know? Because when it's all said and done I think the key thing in life is to look in the mirror and say, 'I didn't compromise my core beliefs.'"

His father, on the other hand, clearly has some bruised feelings. He's not just a former president - he's a Dad.

Related video: Elder Bush defends son on Iraq

Related video: Watch former President Bush make a surprise landing at his library

- CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry

Filed under: President Bush
soundoff (544 Responses)
  1. Gorbashov

    Forget his 'son's pain', what about the countries pain?

    November 9, 2007 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |

    Bush 41, Yes the middle east would be better off than it is now if Saddam had been left in power but contained. Containment was working, Bush 43 opened the pit of hell on the Iraqi people.

    November 9, 2007 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  3. T. Tim, Lodi, WI

    Boo hoo ... Papa thinks criticism of Boy George is "grossly unfair." Well Papa, lots and lots and lots of people in the US and abroad think that what your son has done in 7 years is "gross" period. Boy George is grossly out of touch with the electorate and with working class people. Just like Papa who didn't even know what a price scanner was in a supermarket.

    November 9, 2007 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  4. Bob, San Francisco, CA

    Hussein was definitely an evil man, but I think it can be clearly argued that the area was more stable under his control. I think we are being delusional if we think these countries will grow into democracies. This requires enlightenment and intellect, which does not manifest well in cultures dominated by irrational religious control.

    This argument can be applied to what's going on in Pakistan right now. Do we risk further instability by getting rid of Musharraf (if real democratic elections were held)? Will the world be better served with a Taliban-based government in control of Pakistan's nuclear facilities? What about Hammas in Palestian territories?

    Iraq was more stable under Saddam, and the whole reason for the war had nothing to do with Saddam anyway. Bush and the neocon architects of the war deserve all the criticism they get...and then some!

    November 9, 2007 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  5. Ca Native

    Mr. President – you're a good man and good father. You took much criticism from the looney left and we elected Bill/Hill Clinton – who disgraced the Oval Office, lied under oath, impeached, surrendered his law license, and continues to this day to make excuses for him and his wife.

    Regardless of the rhetoric from the left-wing anti-war code-pink liberals – our President, your son, is doing what is RIGHT (which is different than doing what is "popular" ala Clinton). Your son will be remembered as the President that brought democracy to Afghanistan, Iraq, made our country safer, and did so with honor in the face of abhorent unprecedented attacks from George Soros, Moveon.Org, etc.

    BE proud of your son, Sir. Many of us are!

    November 9, 2007 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  6. Steve, Portland, OR

    Well Bush 41, How much money has your family made at the expense of American citizens since your son became President?

    November 9, 2007 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  7. J.Crobuzon

    "Because when it's all said and done I think the key thing in life is to look in the mirror and say, 'I didn't compromise my core beliefs.'"
    Exactly what Hitler said in the bunker.

    What a sweet little article! Even evil old men who used to run the CIA wuv their children.

    November 9, 2007 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  8. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    I feel your pain, Mr. President Bush 41, but Oh where, Oh where is Bin Laden. And no, we don't want Sadaam back but we do want our brave soldiers back home. No disrespect to you Mr. Bush 41.

    November 9, 2007 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  9. Howard Hewlett

    I understand why Bush 41 would do such a thing, if my own flesh and blood were to be exposed, on a global stage, as brutally incompetent and be perceived as one of the worst leaders in all of human history , I would feel bad for him too.

    Also is America really better off without Saddam? I am just not sold on that considering all that American has sacrafised to get rid of him. Saddam was awful but so are other world leaders, so why target him instead of oh I don't know Bin-Laden? Oh that's right its that oil thing again isn't it?

    November 9, 2007 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  10. JC, Green Bay, Wisconsin

    Yes "41", you're right. Being killed as either a direct or indirect result of your son's action is much better than being killed by Saddam's military. Just ask any Iraqi citizen who has lost a family member in the last four years.

    Then there's the close to four thousand American military dead who would be safe at home with their families if it wasn't for your son. There's one more just down the road from here being buried this very afternoon. "W" deserves every criticism he gets and then some.

    November 9, 2007 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  11. Angel, Loas Angeles of Anaheim

    More bitter rantings of an old fool that still can't over LOSING to a better man in '92.

    November 9, 2007 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  12. Tanya, Manhattan Beach CA

    To paraphrase Bush 41: "Do you think life is better in the Middle East (or the rest of the world for that matter), since we invaded Iraq?"

    November 9, 2007 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    All of America feels the pain that Bush 43 has caused., not just Poppy.

    November 9, 2007 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  14. EB Rideout, Georgia

    All of America, and the rest of the free world for that matter, feels the pain that Bush 43 has caused, not just Poppy.

    November 9, 2007 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  15. Jim, Atlanta

    Bush 41 decided not to topple Saddam because it was the wrong thing to do and would lead to chaos. Now he says that toppling Saddam was the right thing for Bush 43 to do.

    You can't have it both ways good ole 41.

    You were right the first time.

    It is men who have seen combat who are the last to send other men into combat.If Bush 43 had actually seen combat in Vietnam rather than Alabama bars he wouldn't have been so cavalier in sending other people's children to die in an unnecesary war.

    November 9, 2007 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  16. rob

    I must admit, I didn't mind Bush Sr., but his son is a total idiot. I don't even blame GHWB for that, because Shrub would have clearly become a total narcissist even WITH hyper-involved parents. Standing up for what you think is right is NOT admirable, if it's CLEARLY WRONG by all the objective standards you've ever been taught.

    November 9, 2007 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  17. r sisk, nevada

    BE proud of your son, Sir. Many of us are!
    Posted By Ca Native : November 9, 2007 3:13 pm

    What planet are you living on?

    Bush Sr. is probably embarrassed of what Shrub has done over the past 7 years. I guess the greatest thing to come out of all this is that a Bush will NEVER occupy the white house again.

    November 9, 2007 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  18. Hank, Fort Myers, FL

    We could have kept Saddham in check for decades w/ the no fly zones. Every time he popped his head up-we thwacked him. Eventually, the sanctions, and military barriers–might have worked. Although over years this might have been expensive. I doubt it would have been as costly as the current situation–and we still don't have any sign of victory, halting the violence, nor how to pull out and go back to doing our own business. I'm not a critic..I'm a military man whose served under 6 Presidents, as the Commander-In-Chief Junior leaves a little to be desired. And, by the way, the domestic front isn't looking so great either. I don't blame former Pres. Bush for anguishing over his son. Things may have gone a little better–if the Junior had been allowed (or had the foresight) to pick a different VP and Cabinet.

    November 9, 2007 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |

    Mirror, Mirror on the Wall was I not the Best President of All? Reply form the Mirror. You have got to be kidding and broke into a million pieces laughing. George it was never about your core beliefs, its was about the core values of a nation, not a man. "Because when it's all said and done it's about the PEOPLE!"
    Very Respectfully,
    D. L. Graham
    El Cajon, San Diego, CT. CA.

    November 9, 2007 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  20. Concerned Citizen

    Ca Native,

    You're a tool. I sure hope you don't vote

    November 9, 2007 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  21. Hank, Fort Myers, FL

    CA Native said to Former Prez Bush: Your son will be remembered as the President that brought democracy to Afghanistan, Iraq, made our country safer, and did so with honor in the face of abhorent unprecedented attacks from George Soros, Moveon.Org, etc.

    Hey Native. While you're laying it on, don't forget us veterans, we aren't real happy either Junior's perfomance–and many are quite vocal on their own w/out any help from Move-On thank you. Afghanistan and Iraq haven't been decided yet–his legacy could be the whole area becomes a fuedal wasteland with the U.S. trying to still patch up the holes 50 years from now.

    November 9, 2007 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  22. Sarah, Kansas City, MO

    Uh, Bush 41, I believe the reason that we were supposed to in Iraqi was because of WMD and not Hussein. That was one of reasons given after the original lie was discovered. Hussein was violent tyrant but at least there was some stability in that country. The country was secular and the different sects were not killing each other. The only reason there is a slight lull now is because of the 'surge' which will end in the spring (it is not sustainable). Then the weather will warm up as well as the war.

    As for the numb-skull from California who thinks that Bush 43 will be remembered for bringing democracy to the middle east. Fat chance. Democracies only work when you have an educated society that has the wisdom to separate religion from the government and place that in their constitution. Most of the people in the countries in the middle east place their religion first before country alligiance. And forcing democracy on people won't work either.

    Also, Clinton was wrong to fool around with an intern but that only affected four people. Bush's selfish mistake has caused the deaths of nearly 4,000 of our troops as well thousands of injuries and unknown thousands of deaths among the Iraqs. This will be a shame that our terrorist president will have to live with for the rest of his pathetic life. You can not even compare the two.

    November 9, 2007 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  23. Karen,ny

    What to heck are they talking about? Bush 41..Bush 43..I never heard of such a thing.

    November 9, 2007 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  24. JC Topeka, KS

    Had Bush 41 finished the job, Bush 43 would not have had the opportunity.

    November 9, 2007 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  25. John C

    Bush 41 ought to be happy Bush 43 did two things right for America. Number One was Chief Justice Roberts and Number Two was Justice Alito. Those two acts are the best things to happen out his entire presidency. Bush 41 had the good sense to Pick a great supreme court member too! The Bush family has Completely destroyed the Middle East. Thank God the USA was not mentioned in the Bible!

    November 9, 2007 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
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