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. Kevin, Moon Township PA

    You loonies need to get a life. Do something constructive in your life by volunteering your time to help others. Your venomous outbursts of hate only play into the hands of the terrorists and anarchists. Instead of driving your SUV's and sitting in your lofts drinking wine and wondering how many hate words you can think of to call our president – get off your ass and do something constructive. Freedom is not cheap and not without a cost. Besides America, how many other countries around the world help other countries to become free or help them with democracy. How many people do you know who are flocking to get into countries such as Iran, Russia, North Korea, Syria, China, and so on. Probably not many unless their criminals. Why don't others in those countries we are in deserve the same freedom we have – why should they have to live under tyranical rule. Why don't you go live their for a while and then come back and say we're doing the wrong thing – and while you're at it – why don't you make more of a stink about Darfur and other countries where rebels and insurgents are killing innocent people at an outstanding rate – Instead of spouting hate – do something constructive – you might actually see life from a different perspective.

    November 9, 2007 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  2. ed Vetter Clarksville Tn

    Sadam was no treath to us that we couldn't handel without Over foue thousand of our young getting killed.
    Sure was a big price that is still going, along with a 10 trillion dollar deficit and oil up tro a $1.00 a barrel because of it.

    November 9, 2007 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  3. ano to

    If he cared so much why are you not in Iraq fighting for what he believes in.
    Death's for political reason!
    If he cared for the american people then bring our troops home.
    I bet your in line for president, right after Hillary.
    The people are going to stand up for their rights and vote Ron Paul!

    November 9, 2007 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  4. PorradaVFR, San Jose CA

    Odd...aside from calling in favors to get Junior a cushy Air National Guard gig, a sweetheart deal on the Texas Rangers (after Junior ran Arbusto Oil into the ground) and basically training the Cabinet for his son what else has Bush 41 done?

    Oh yeah, he helpfully ignored Junior's drinking and (alleged) cocaine habit and enabled him to be an irresponsible bufoon into his 40's. Poor little Maine rich boy. Wait, I mean "brush clearing Texan".

    It's a little late for him to be a good parent, considering he utterly screwed up the first four decades of the job. Last I checked the status quo in the middle east would mean billions more of our tax dollars not being wasted, along with the lives of thousands of brave US soldiers.

    November 9, 2007 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  5. truebob hollywood FL

    Ahhh Samuel, Lincoln, NE, finally somebody who is worth reading on this site. It gladdens my heart to know that I am not alone in the dark, waiting for this country to return to the high ground. I shudder to think what my 3 year old son will learn about this time in America’s history. Only the Second Amendment gives me any hope for the future. I am sick of shameful and humiliating policy being portrayed to the world as “the will of the American people”. I want my country back from the Neocon fascists.

    November 9, 2007 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  6. Pam Los Angeles, CA

    Ca native: You are definitely living in the wrong state- please head east to a red state because we don't need delusional Bush-lovers like you in CA.

    November 9, 2007 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  7. Glenna Claremore, OK

    Cheney and Bush should be impeached.

    November 9, 2007 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  8. Dave FL

    I say bring back Saddam Hussein. He is better than Bush 41 or 43 put together!! America is worse ever since we have had the most selfish family in america run america.

    November 9, 2007 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  9. Ginny Peyton, CO

    It will always be the case that parents want to protect their children and, unfortunately, will feel some responsibility for their childrens mistakes. I am very happy that while my adult childrens mistakes have been minor, I know full well that I will always feel somewhat responsible for whatever they have done and, possibly be held accountantable, right or not. I can at least sleep at night. I am not sure the senior Mr. Bush will ever be able to. Good luck on that.

    November 9, 2007 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  10. Steve, Kansas City, MO

    It unbelivable given the evidence of what occured during the Clinton years that there are still morons like "Ca Native" that don't get it. And, sadly, they probably never will. See "the hunting of the president" as a reference. Bush will go down as one of the most reviled men of the early 21st century. Everything he touches is deystroyed. He has done nothing for this world but bring misery and death. The pages of history will not speak kindly of him.

    November 9, 2007 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  11. J.T. San Ramon, CA

    Hilarious. Maybe if he had laid into his son a tad more and not expended so much energy bailing him out of mistakes, he would have shown up for guard duty and had some common sense. His son is an idiot and the WORST American President in history. History will not vindicate him; instead it will bring more of his follies to light. The people he surrounds himself with are elitist and self-serving. The values he promotes devalue majority of the population. All that probably put me on a watch list, but they already have my e-mail so it doesn't matter. He shouldn't be upset, he should be embarrassed that his progeny is the biggest laughing stock to sit in the White House. Do I want Sadaam back? For selfish reason yes, but he should be alive to at least offer some guidance of how he stabilized the region for so long. In the end Sadaam had the last laugh..the middle east is destabilized, the US is destabilized, the dollar is falling, China has us over a barrel (of oil, that they get from Niger, Russia and maybe soon in Cuba), and the real nuclear threat...hahaha...IRAN...and has anyone seen Osama?

    November 9, 2007 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  12. Youra Nut, Sunshine State America

    Daddy Bush...By "Lay Off", do you mean lay off, like so many American workers have experienced?

    November 9, 2007 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  13. G. Keith, Hilton Head, SC

    What will CNN and the Democratic party do if a left-wing neo-communist democrat gets elected? They'll have nothing to complain about! How is this different than your good ol' boy Bill taking the fall for Hillary's medical reform blunder? Is that more noble for the impeached liar and adulterer? Had 9/11 happened under a neo-communist democrat, we'd still be looking for give him a big hug and say we're sorry. Or to have the inventor of the internet try and figure out how much of a carbon footprint he left when he killed over 3,000 Americans. I am thoroughly convinced that if CNN were on the air in 1941 and the current Democratic party that exists today had existed then, we would be goose stepping down Main Streets all over the USA. Hey Democrats...Grow a pair or move to France where the rest of the world's sissies live.

    November 9, 2007 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  14. John Zack

    Hurricane Katrina.

    Total and complete incompetence.

    November 9, 2007 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  15. James Douglas, Bradford MA

    I'm sorry that your son is getting picked on. Tell that to parents of the iraqi vets whos children got picked on all the way to their graves.
    The world will be a much better place once this idiot administration is out of office. Bush Sr. you should be proud that you helped give birth to the worst president of the United States. Bravo!!! What a legacy!!!

    November 9, 2007 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  16. Ginny Peyton, CO

    please correct that horrific spelling of accountable.

    November 9, 2007 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  17. Jack Nowicki, Brighton, MI.

    While I admire Bush 41's for his support of his son; it is clear to the majority of the US citizens, and world community, that Bush 43's foreign policies have failed the American public and will lead to political and economic tramas. Both Bush's need to recognize 43's failures and make changes to rectify the current unacceptable situation.

    November 9, 2007 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  18. Grovin, Darnassus, IL

    They shouldn't be called "Bush 41" and "Bush 43". They should be called "Kind of a Bad President" and "Really a Bad President."

    November 9, 2007 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  19. Annette Spence / Knoxville, Tenn.

    I don't care what Bush 41 feels for his son. Too many people have died on both sides because of his son's arrogance and incompetence. Our nation is known, now more than ever, as a nation of greed and hate because of his son. Let him take that to the Father in prayer, and then search his heart about what he should do to support his son.

    November 9, 2007 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  20. Paul, Columbia Maryland

    Wow! What do you think Sr. Bush will do if we do not leave his son alone (I mean hold him accountable).
    Maybe we may be next... Remember what little Bush said about Saddam?

    November 9, 2007 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  21. Travis, Palm Desert, CA

    This post is to the "proud" American -CA Native who probably works for the Bush admin. With the popularity of this war & the president himself at an all time low there must be a reason. 911 was perpetrated by extremists from Afghanistan, yet Bush is asking "Well, do you still think Saddam should be in power?" This is typical of this administration. An answer for an unasked question. There weren't weapons of mass destruction, there wasn't any proof of direct involvment by Iraq in 911, but here we are. Instead of just admitting we have absolutely no right or reason to be at war with Iraq people like "CA Native" think it's a good idea to say "Many of Us Are (proud of you)" to the president when THEY are the minority on that stance. Our men and women have died for nothing and that is a harsh thing to say but it is true. Every day more and more get killed and it is no safer over there and the price of oil is at its highest, so literally our soldiers are dying for NOTHING! And if one more conservative tries to explain that we're bringing them democracy, then I'll say "fine, YOU go live over there if you are so concerned with their saftey."

    November 9, 2007 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  22. David Orbach, New York, NY

    How dare he. As has already been noted, the Middle East was far more stable with Saddam in power. As far as not compromising one's core beliefs, Bush 41 is not so stupid as to see that this is of far lesser importance than using the powers of office entrusted to you carefully and wisely. W's core beliefs may well be intact, but he will leave office having made the world around him a much less safe, and far more divided place.

    November 9, 2007 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  23. jack jett

    Jeffrey Dahmer's father felt that his son was very misunderstood as well.

    The Bush Family has done more to destroy the integrity of the United States of America than any other group.

    Many feel that his son is war criminal.

    Jack Jett

    November 9, 2007 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  24. Steve, San Ramon

    Bush Sr. should be apologizing to the country for his son.

    November 9, 2007 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  25. dan, Reality, USA

    Only a complete and total failure like W could have us longing for the return of Saddam. Oh Saddam how we miss you....

    November 9, 2007 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
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