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. Kay, Las Vegas, NV

    I wonder how many of you "scholars" who are so quick to spew your venomous hatred of the Bush family, can name all the presidents let alone determine whether their presidency was a success or failure? No need to answer since it is obvious in your own inability to spell correctly or even put a simple sentence together!
    Seems the lemmings just keep recyling what those like-minded hate mongers keep spouting...without having done research first...of course, you would have to know how to read in order to research...

    November 9, 2007 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  2. Shawn, Richmond, BC, Canada

    "Do they want to bring back Saddam Hussein, these critics?"

    What a ridiculous argument to make. A single positive consequence of a decision does not necessarily make that decision wise. Think if I were to rob $50,000 from a bank, and then donate $1,000 to charity. While facing charges, if I were to then ask "Do they really want take away the $1,000 donated to charity?," would that do me any good? Would that justify my actions?

    I advise you, Bush 41, to stop spewing such ignorance and damaging your family's reputation even further (if that's even possible).

    November 9, 2007 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  3. Jon, Omaha, NE

    apn: for all your sanctimony and bluster you still don't get it, do you? The Iraq war had nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, to do with the 9/11 attacks. Numerous Americans gave their lives, but not for idiots like you to have the right to walk and speak freely. You see, we already had that. Face the facts: those Americans died because of the hubris and incompetence of George W. Bush. I will never be ashamed to call myself an American because I dared to criticize the president or the government. I suggest you examine your own citizenship before making such an ignorant statement.

    To Dave, SC: While I thank you for your service, you don't "talk for real". Your opinion is no more valid than anyone else's here. I served during the first Gulf War and I have a number of friends who served or have served in the current conflict. Most of them DISAGREE with the conflict and went to fight because it was their duty to do so, regardless of whether they agreed with Bush or not. You go ahead and blindly support Bush, but you have no right to criticize anyone who disagrees with you.

    November 9, 2007 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  4. Elliot Newport Rhode Island

    The election of W just points out that in America anyone can be president!!!!!
    It does not reflect well on the intelligence of the American people that we elected this moron.
    Let's hope that we , as a country can survive this low point in our history.

    November 9, 2007 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  5. `David Dowrick, Gainesville, MO

    Only a dad could support Bush 43.

    November 9, 2007 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  6. Jake, OC, California

    If you’re thinking of posting that we went to war on a lie please, save it. Children lie, governments obfuscate. The truth is always available with effort. It takes a certain level of ignorance to believe a lie (ignorance as opposed to stupidity). At base level every war has some distasteful reason for beginning. Does anybody really think we fight wars (kill each other) over noble causes? Very few wars fit this mold. If you feel you were lied to about the reasons for going into Iraq, it is only because you ignored the truth and felt better believing obfuscation. And now that the results don’t fit your expectations you want somebody to blame other than yourself. “I was lied to.” As somebody else said here, stop your internet rants – do something. Prevent the next one or work harder to bring this one to an end (a positive ending is still possible). If you think Iraq is the worst place to live in the Middle East, you’re ignoring (ignorance) the news on Darfur.

    November 9, 2007 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  7. Nick Smith, La Grande, OR

    It's too bad Bush 41 was running the CIA, being VP, etc., instead of beating the hell out of his kid, Georgie, to make him behave.
    The least he could have done is to teach him how to pronounce "nuclear."

    November 9, 2007 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  8. Culbert Twain

    "Lay Off My Son" can be interpreted to mean, get rid of, replace, fire or let go...I say yes to all of the above and I say do it word..impeach...I will repeat...impeach!

    November 9, 2007 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  9. Ryan - New York, NY

    Americans today have weak personalities. You complain about so much and contribute so little. What do you want? You want us to just pull out? There is no quick or easy solution to this. You're all just a pathetic generation of whiners. Girly men. You think that giving your own two cents will help get us out of Iraq? Or make the President and Congress less of an embarassment? All you can say is you don't like what's going on, and it got old a long time ago. I want to hear something new, something productive.

    November 9, 2007 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  10. Daniel, Minneapolis MN

    Hey, John R., San Jose, CA

    Don't forget that we helped fund Saddam in that war with Iran

    November 9, 2007 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  11. Brad, Stockton, CA

    Who cares what Bush 41 thinks? Empathy I can understand, but pain? Give me a break. Millions of Americans are feeling the pain of Bush 43's lies and policies today with no way out, and several thousand families have felt the most severe pain of all when their loved ones have come home in boxes and pieces. That's real pain.

    November 9, 2007 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  12. Carol, Ridgecrest, CA

    Bush 41 has several crooked sons, not just Bush 43. Has everyone forgotten the Savings & Loan scandal of a few years back when Neil and Jeb helped themselves and their friends to the "honey pot"!!!!

    November 9, 2007 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  13. Manny - Miami, FL

    To: Jeff, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
    I think most of the posters look up w/ pride to any member of our Armed Servuces who has put his like on the line... my main qualm w/ W on Iraq is that your lives (along w/ those of every Iraqi) have been used as canon fodder for misguided, misdirected and misexecuted (is that a word) political intrigue w/ no clear defined goal or endpoint... Following blind oaths and blind patriotism caused the greatest tragedy of the 20th century (WW2)... why should we again follow the blind dictums of another demagogue... as George Santayana clearly stated – "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"

    November 9, 2007 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  14. Jeanne Lee

    Very interesting... "Do they think life would be better in the Middle East if Saddam were still there?".. as a matter of fact, the Middle East is now a lot more dangerous, with Iran being empowered and allowed to take a foothold in Iraq (where it couldn't before when Sadam was still there, with terrorists being allowed to pour into Iraq from other countries... yeah, the Middle East looks an awful lot worse after Bush 43 lied to this country and took it into an illegal war... shame on him, and shame on Bush 41.

    November 9, 2007 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  15. Mike, Hong Kong

    "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."

    This doesn't even make sense. When Clinton intervened in SE Europe, certain Republican Congressbumpkins said Clinton was a worse war criminal than Milosevic. When such comments are coming from elected Republican high officials, said Republican officials are sending a message that during war time this is how you're supposed to talk about your commander in chief, right? Anyway, to imagine that any president would simply not respond to an event like 9-11 is preposterous.

    No one in Iraq is protecting my freedom as an American. I don't pretend I could do a better job as president– but I am quite confident that some people could, and have. Still, if your best defense of Bush is that he is doing a better job than the average anonymous poster here could do, I say you're setting your standards for "leader of the free world" just a tad too low.

    November 9, 2007 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  16. Doug Merriman, Detroit, MI

    Bush 41, at some point even you have to realize your son is an idiot who started a needless war, blow a humongous hole in the budget, has never had the DoJ prosecute a Civil Rights case, has usurped the constitution, broken all kinds of law regarding our freedom and security and gotten thousands of people needlessly killed. Bush 41 could have avoided all of this unpleasantnesss by weari g a condom...

    November 9, 2007 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  17. Ryan, Melbourne, FL

    After reading many of these comments, its clear to me that the American people could not fight a war such as the American Revolution. When we celebrate the 4th of July, we dont celebrate "Peace, Stability, and Convenience Day" we celebrate the struggle, the death, and the hardship our forefathers had to go through to try and grant their loved ones, and their decendents a better future.

    Comparison between the President with Hitler, Saddam with peace and stability, I pretty young and even I am not so ignorant to even begin to draw these comparisons. I can't begin to understand the level of hatred, or stupidity, which would lead people to compare a President, their President, to perhaps the most evil person in history. And to equate Saddam Hussein with peace and stability, is to laugh in the face of every war fought against people like him, to discredit the sacrifice of millions of American serivemen and women, and the citizens that supported them through their struggle. No, I say that if you think along these lines (read the comments) it is you who is like Hitler, willing to forget about the sacrifices, the struggles, and instead say the alternative is alright by you, as long as you can keep your 'peace.'

    So, you can keep your ideas of "peace" and "stability", I'll stand up, I'll support those who try and make a difference, try to change things for the better, and we may fail... but we fail trying. Better than looking from the outside in thinking "What a shame, they found another mass grave... I wish someone would do something about that."

    November 9, 2007 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  18. Nicholas, San Francisco, CA

    I've been to Iraq. Saddam ruined the place.

    November 9, 2007 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  19. Karen Saucedo, Novato California

    Bush 43. Something only his parent could love.

    November 9, 2007 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  20. German, Bronx, New York

    Let's water board him and say that, that is not torture. I am so Glad God has a long list of punishment for Both of them!

    They are already condemned for worshiping the devil at bohemian Grove.

    Ron Paul For President.

    November 9, 2007 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  21. Callahan, Lansing, MI

    Not only congress but all of DC, and most of the media are completely out of touch with what is happening to a large number of the middle class or the UNPOOR as I call us.

    I struggle with the purchase of $10.00 shoes made in COMMUNIST CHINA, while a few years back I could afford to pay 5 times that much for a pair that was made in the USA, and while earning less than I do now, but also paying less for many of life’s nessecities.

    I am barely UNPOOR.

    November 9, 2007 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  22. paul floyd

    The biggest idiots of all are the Americans who re elected this disgraceful moron in 04. Sorry, but you asked for it (again).No sympathy for the stupid.

    November 9, 2007 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  23. Jessie Reality USA

    If you don't like the Bush bashing why don't you move to another country say like Communist China. As far as I am concerned this is America and everybody has a right to thier opinion. Plus wake up and smell the sulfur this President is the worst President in recent history. He is not a conservative, but he played to the sheep conservative base and now your to blame for all this and try everything to divert attention from the facts like a good lawyer. Pathetic. Impeach Bush and Cheney and restore morals and ethics back into the White House.

    November 9, 2007 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  24. Steve

    If ya can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen (White House)!!

    November 9, 2007 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  25. Richard Griffith

    Where is the major debate that Iraq would be better off with Saddam in power? Please cite me your sources so I can share the laughs with others. You loose so much credibility when you cite this tribble.

    November 9, 2007 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
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