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. Mike, LA CA

    Mr. Bush, your son re-writes the definition of pure evil. A man who is willing to instigate a conflict and cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement and misery of millions more is a man without conciense, because if he had one, he would have done the right thing and just killed himself.

    November 9, 2007 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  2. Josh Maloney, Oakland, CA

    Its not about Saddam ! For God sakes people. Bush 43 lied lied lied to the world about Iraq and for that he should stand trial for war crimes. Do we need to mention Katrina too? We could write a manifesto on that one.

    November 9, 2007 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  3. Dustin Gettel Philadelphia, PA

    Yes, I agree. I wish we could lay him off! haha

    November 9, 2007 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  4. Dave, SC

    Bravo.. All those who write here nasty things about our president should go and fight in Iraq. They want our commander in chief or his father to go to Iraq and fights. Have a life. CNN is also making a mockery of the press. Why do you give chance to these lunatics to spill the venom here. By the way I am just back from Iraq and I respect my commander in chief. I talk for real.

    November 9, 2007 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  5. mikro, haverhill ma

    Lay off? Sure.

    November 9, 2007 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  6. apn

    you know all these people with the negative comments about 41 and 43, do they really think they could do a better job. So what do you really think someone like Clinton or Gore or Kerry would have done. Just rolled over and said thank you for destroying the towers, Why do you think you can say all the stupid things you say, BECAUSE NUMEROUS AMERICANS GAVE THE LIVES SO IDIOTS LIKE YOU CAN WALK AND SPEAK FREELY. Everything is fine as long as it goes your way, but as soon as it doesnt someone else has to take your meaningless comments and take the blame. Some of you should be ashamed of yourself, and call yourelfs americans.

    November 9, 2007 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  7. Tom, Rockport Maine

    As a history teacher, my judgment is that Bush 43 truly is the worst president the country ever had. It's sad that there are still so many Americans who don't see that his purportedly "principled" decisions have been based on pure avarice and greed.

    I think the difference between the two Bushes is that, while Papa essentially espoused the same world view, he had the smarts and the "prudence" to be somewhat cautious. Young George's every decision bespeaks his lack of intelligence and judgment. He really is the worst. Even Warren G. Harding had the decency to die in office after only three years, and he didn't get us into any wars...

    Oh and by the way, he was a Republican who was having an affair in the White House. Many say his wife killed him for revenge. Hillary pales in comparison.

    One last thing– to all those who blame Bill Clinton for "not getting Bin Laden," do you remember the 1990s? Do you fail to remember that the Republicans in control of Congress cut off funding for military operations in Somalia (where we REALLY HAD gone for humanitarian reasons)? Do you think the country would have followed any President into a full-scale war in the Middle East, to pursue an enemy we didn't fully understand yet? Get real.01-20-09 baby.

    November 9, 2007 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  8. David, Chicago, Illinois

    To Bush 41:
    If you think Bush 43 is doing a good job you are as delusional about your son as he is about his doing the right thing by throwing the world and our economy into the chaos that will surely come.

    The Bush family is dangerous. They and their cronies are so smug about their position in the world. 9/11 has let Bush 43 get away with many things - but the apathetic American public is as much or more to blame.

    I think Bush 43 is a criminal in at least 43 ways and should be treated as such immediately. Why should respect for the office of President protect a man who treats the Constitution like toilet paper?

    November 9, 2007 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  9. Paul C., Palmetto Bay, FL

    I can assure Bush 41 that things would be better in the Middle East as well as the U.S. if Saddam was still there!
    History, and anyone with a double digit IQ, will tell you that Bush 43's military adventure in Iraq is a disaster of the first magnitude. The tens of thousands killed and wounded, destruction of the country, and the latest estimate of $2.4 trillion is certainly worse than anything Saddam could have done.
    Bush 41 has ample reason to shudder at what his son has wrought.

    November 9, 2007 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  10. John Zildgulf

    I think most of us can sympathize with a father of a complete loser. No doubt, our current president is a loser, but he is still someone's son. Also, as much as most of us know that being right and executing a plan that works are two different things, I estimate that there are at least 30 million Americans, if not more, that will back the current president to the hilt in spite of his massive failures. That means at least a million Americans would support him if we suspended the constitution and became president for life. Unfortunately, these "million strong" will be extremely vocal during the next 12 months or so and will say the craziest stuff. Be prepared now not to listen to them. Find the facts yourself instead and listen critically.

    November 9, 2007 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  11. jim Flaherty, Guilford, CT

    CNN ─ DON'T TOUCH THIS POSTING AGAIN OR WE'LL HAVE TO GO TO COURT WHERE WE CAN DISCUSS A CITIZEN'S CONSTITUTION-ALLY PROTECTED RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH. There is nothing untrue of defamatory in it. Every word is true. Or are you only fronting for the people the President really cares about.

    To President Bush 41:

    Your son is an idiot and is criminally negligent in so many ways, they can not all be easily listed and so is his Vice-President. The two of them and the rest of the dim witted people who work with them, have gotten the United Sates into a war in a country that we have no business being in. Thousand of people from our country are now dead and more are dying every day. Tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi's, men, woman, children, old people, crippled people, sick people have died, and for what? Instead of helping Iraq become the first democracy in the area, we have radicalized Iraq, which has now become the perfect training ground for the ultra conservative of Islam who wish to become future terrorists. Nothing good accomplished there.

    Your son has allowed an entire American city, New Orleans to be destroyed by flooding, a danger to New Orleans, the Army Corps of Engineers, the World's preeminent experts on river water management, had clearly explained needed to have it's dykes strengthened. They requested fifteen billion dollars to perform that work three years before the disaster occurred.. Your son, an expert in absolutely nothing, knew better, and said no, not once but each year for three years proceeding the disaster, because he didn't want to spend the money. Since the hurricane, the federal government has had to spend between 5 to 10 times as much money (no one is quite sure of the exact amount), as was requested by the Corp of Engineers, and the GAO has recently reported that much of the money that has been spent is unaccounted for or has been misappropriated! And the job is far from being done.

    Additionally, your son has ignored both the acceleration of damage that is being done by increasing amounts of CO2 being dumped into the Earth's atmosphere, fully 25% of which is from the United States, and the enormous 300% increase in the cost of energy during his two terms, his having no Energy plan to help the country move away from burning more hydrocarbons. What he should have done is build one thousand solar power plants, five or more in every state, to harness a real alternative energy source, the only practical and ecological one that exists, the Sun. But, once again he knows what is best! He appointed Samuel Bodman, a former oil industry executive as the Secretary of Energy, didn't he? And what a job Mr. Bodman has done in protecting the oil company's interests! Perhaps this is why we are paying 3 times as much for energy of all types as we were when your genius of a son and his brilliant sidekick Mr. Chaney took office.

    We can go on talking about his not securing our borders, ports or anything else. Or we can talk about his encouraging twenty million people to enter our country illegally, he rather willing to stand by and do nothing, including helping our border patrol officers stop people from crossing the border illegally. Did you know that two border patrol officers who shot a drug smuggler in the butt have been ruthlessly prosecuted by the U. S. Federal prosecutor in El Paso for doing their job. The drug dealer sued the officers, received immunity to testify against the officers and the officers have been convicted of some crime they supposedly committed while trying to apprehend the drug smuggler. They have since been put in federal prison, where one of them was nearly beaten to death. And, incidentally, the drug dealer was arrested again for smuggling more drugs, during the time he was testifying against the border patrol agents.

    If anyone else had been President you can be certain that the drug smuggler would be the one in prison and the border patrol officers would receive a substantial raise for their excellent efforts at keeping people from illegally entering the United States.

    He has committed numerous crimes against the Constitution of the United States and all citizen's rights enumerated and protected by the Constitution have been substantially weakened and damaged ─ all justified by "the war on terrorism". This is the most serious abrogation by your son and it will be the one that will most thoroughly comes back to haunt him as his legacy.

    Your son has consistently chosen to ignore what the people of the United States want him to do as President. He should keep his core beliefs to himself, and rather listen carefully to the people of the United States and act accordingly.

    But alas, your son thinks he knows best.

    January 20, 2009 ─ the end of an error.

    Good riddance.

    November 9, 2007 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  12. John Palazzini, Woodland Hills CA

    Bush 41 should apologize to the entire Earth for spawning that criminmal, cretinous fool of a son. He should be impeached and brought before the Hague for war crimes.

    November 9, 2007 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  13. PollM, Dallas Tx

    Do you Approve or Disapprove of how George Bush is handling his job as President?


    November 9, 2007 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  14. Alan, Monterey, CA

    One word sums it up: "incompetent."
    Bush's defenders are still stuck in the "liberal vs conservative" rut. Bush is a big-government liberal who panders to evangelicals. I don't know if that makes him liberal or conservative, but I know he has proven INCOMPETENT. No president that I can recall–Republican or Democrat–valued loyalty above competence as does the current president. Then again, there was nothing in his life history to ever suggest he might be successful as a leader.
    Where's bin Laden?
    What happened during Hurricane Katrina?
    What happened in the Justice Department?

    November 9, 2007 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  15. Michael, San Diego, CA

    I wonder if these same 43 defenders would have the same opinions if there were a Democrat in office? I wish people could think beyond party affiliations and look at world-realities. I voted for Bush and can admit to my own errors in judgement. Bush was clearly a dividing force in the US and even more so in the rest of the world. I'm hopeful that the US can recover but realistically that won't happen until well after the elections...

    November 9, 2007 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  16. Jackson, Austin TX

    Give me a break! For once, let the Coward piece 'o crap Chimp take responsibility for his screw-ups.

    November 9, 2007 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  17. Matelo, Bellingham, WA

    So, if taking out Saddam was the right thing to do, why didn't Bush 41 take him out when he had the chance? This man is even more evil than his son. Look up the highway of death in Kuwait, and you'll see one of the war crimes 41 was responsible for. Another would be Saddam's attacks on the Kurds, using WMD that the west provided him with, at a tidy profit. Bush 41 encouraged the Kurds to revolt, and then pulled out, and sat back while Saddam slaughtered them with chemical weapons sold to him by US corporations (made possible after St. Ronald The Evil Empire Slayer removed Iraq from the terrorist nation list).

    So...I think 41 should just fade away, unless he wants to face war crimes charges along with his miscreant son.

    November 9, 2007 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  18. True Patriot, USA

    Saddam nocked down our towers! Don't you all remember?? Bush saved your freedom! Maybe you should all go see what it is like to live in the middle east. The Founding Fathers would be so ashamed that all you question the President of the United States of America!

    November 9, 2007 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  19. Jeremy, Portland OR

    I have just read the many comments posted and can honestly say for the first time in a very long while I am proud again to be an American. I am glad that people are no longer willing to stand for the nonsense of this administration. I am glad to see that we can wish the best for our country and Iraq and still see the manifest error in what is happening. Both Saddam and Bush are war criminals. What Saddam's father and Bush's father may think of them is irrelevant.

    For those few of you who wish to retreat to the banal mantras of talk radio and use terms like "left-wingers" and "socialists" consider this: Until about WWII this country prided itself on how SMALL its military was. Often you speak of what the Founding Fathers would have wanted. What would Jefferson have thought about 43's wiretapping program? Do you think that Madison would have supported 43's "preventive strike" as a legitimate platform of foreign policy? What would Franklin have said to a government which lies to their people and questions the patriotism of those who dare to ask them to be accountable?

    In short, what people are advocating is NOT some weird new form of 'leftist' extremism. They are only requesting that our government adhere to the MOST BASIC PRINCIPLES on which it was founded.

    November 9, 2007 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  20. A. Oliver, Cleveland, OH

    A former President is credited with two quotes relevant to this bit of whining: "The buck stops here," and "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

    November 9, 2007 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  21. Robert Wooller Bradford England

    I know it must be hard to take criticism but that comes with the job of being president, and Bush has to accept it.

    November 9, 2007 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  22. Rodney Dallas TX

    Sorry Bush 41, your son is a moron.

    November 9, 2007 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  23. aj huntington ny

    TO all the men who bash the President's unwavering support of the military and his actions in Iraq:

    you are not REAL MEN, you are feminized boys who are surely under the control of mommmy or some domineering woman. But if you don't understand and get behind the military and the President; or if you don't get out there and fight against Islamo-fascism, you're nothing. You're not real men, you're little scared boys. You resent and disdain the real men who are soldiers, warriors , heroes. But you'll never be hero in anyone's eyes. Because men who don't serve our country or at least support it, are not real men.

    November 9, 2007 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  24. Kevin Chersky, Fresno CA

    Hrmm... the middle east probably would have been better off if *we* didn't put him there to begin with.

    November 9, 2007 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  25. Mike, Hong Kong

    "Yeah, the middle east was more stable when Saddam was gassing his own people, warring with Iran and invading Kuwait. Some of folks are intellectually lazy or just plain dumb. G.W. did the right thing, time will prove this out."

    We launched our get-rid-of-Saddam war in 2003. In the interest of not being "intellectually lazy," why don't you look up the dates of the evil Saddam events you cite. The gassing and the Iran war were both in the 1980s, and Saddam was either supported or tolerated by the Reagan administration– which even squashed a left-wing Democrat attempt to pass a Congressional Resolution condemning evil Saddam.

    In any case, it's hard to understand the implied argument here that a late 1980s gassing or a 1990 invasion of Kuwait requires an American invasion in 2003.

    November 9, 2007 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
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