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. Andrew Radwidtz, Madison, CT

    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 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  2. David, Arlington, Texas

    Bottom line–the current President is an idiot, and has managed to engineer a more failed Presidency than even his father–something I thought impossible. All Bush Jr. has managed to do is lead me to respect his father more. Sure, I empathize with the pain of a father, but the fact remains that he has been the constant enabler of this current buffoon.

    November 9, 2007 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  3. George, Billerica, Mass.

    Meet the Uniter's dad, the Whiner. As if there wasn't reason enough to ban the name Bush from every ballot. Don't criticize? He's the President, for crying out loud. In case the Bushes missed civics lessons, liberty means the right to criticize. Take your millions in oil profits you "earned" and shut up.

    November 9, 2007 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  4. Roger, Fresno, CA

    Bush 43 made a tough choice in invading Iraq, but under the circumstances, I think it was the wrong war at the wrong time. The job in Afghanistan had yet to be finished, and we put a ton of resources into invading and maintaining Iraq. Was Saddam a threat to the U.S.? Potentially. But you can say the same about a lot of other countries. Doesn't mean we need to invade them with limited resources and practically a unilateral coalition. I do think history will be kind to Bush 43, but it may take at least a couple generations. Of course, almost 5 years after the invasion, Iraq is still a big question mark and America's economy is lackluster, to put it mildly.

    November 9, 2007 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  5. jeanette, terrytown NJ

    the soldiers, who are given the lethal weapons, have the utmost responsibility to use them for the right reasons and refuse to use them for the wrong reasons. a soldier is a member of humanity and of a nation before he or she is a soldier. there have been numerous soldiers with integrity and courage who, as a human being and citizen, have said "no" to the immoral and / or illegal tasks and orders. they are some of the real heroes.

    November 9, 2007 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  6. Andrew Hummel-Schluger, Brier, WA

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

    Why is this idiotic statement held up as somehow representative of anyone who dares to criticize Dubya?

    No one wants Hussein back. And we don't like a president who emulates Hussein, either.

    The name Bush will be held in shame for as long as the Republic remains.

    November 9, 2007 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |


    November 9, 2007 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  8. Vincent, Rochester, NY

    In response to:
    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!


    I'm not going to go so far as to label you a hick and call you ignorant. However, your comments raise the ignorance flag all on their own.

    To attack the left-wing with silly names like "code-pink anti-war liberals", and the "loony left", you must first have some credibility at your own position of the political spectrum. You don't.

    Why? Well, you first attack a president that had our country running smoothly, with a surplus of funds, people were, for the most part, happy. Yet, you find it prudent to attempt to underscore all of this by exaggerating a few small problems Clinton had while in office (and even after). You want to talk about presidents lying and breaking the law? Let's talk about George W. Bush then. He lies to us every day, he constantly breaks laws regarding executive power, citizen privacy, interrogation, and the list goes on. He undermines the constitution by doing whatever he deems good for his personal agenda, whatever it is.

    And let me tell you something about what is "right", since you brought that up as well. Not you, nor George Bush get to decide what is "right", and you can't simply deem that he is "doing the right thing" and leave it at that. You, unknowingly, contradicted yourself in your statement comparing what is right to what is popular. You and I live in America. In this country, what is popular IS what is right, and the president is expected to make decisions based on what the people decide. That's called democracy. Clinton did this, as a president should. Bush does not care what the people think, and this is evident by the fact that he completely ignores all criticism. If he has any sort of conscience, and if he wasn't so marred by tunnel vision and psychological problems, he might come to, and realize how badly he's screwed up this country.

    As it stands, most countries in the world and their people either despise us, or despise Bush. He's tarnished.. no, not tarnished, destroyed the reputation of this country. He's used his power to do whatever pleases him and his buddies. He has, repeatedly, done what he decides is "good" for the American public when they are consistantly pleading with him to do otherwise.

    I can honestly say that Mr. Bush has not done a single thing right in his most recent term as president. You should really do some deep thinking and consider the fact that the wounds opened by George W. Bush on the united states, economic, social, and international, will not be easily, if ever, healed.

    November 9, 2007 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  9. Karen,ny

    Grovin..Thank You.

    November 9, 2007 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  10. Michael Wilson Reno Nv

    if he feels bad for his son maybe he shouldn't have raised him to be an arrogant, lying, hypocritical, devious, dishonest, ignorant war monger If they want to send the secret police to interrogate me or waterboard me go ahead.

    November 9, 2007 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  11. Mark, Jefferson, NJ

    Papa 41 has the same financial stake in the war that Sonnyboy 43 has, with all the same cronies and all the same co-conspiritors. Even their war for oil has failed, with us all nearing $4 a gallon. They don't deserve our pity, they deserve a trial.

    November 9, 2007 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  12. Stephen Robison, Block Island, RI

    Bush 41 obviously puts family ahead of country. Too bad.

    November 9, 2007 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  13. annette, columbus, oh

    Being an independent myself and having voted in the past for both Democrats and Republicans, what I find surprising here are the folks who are continuing to sing the praises of this President and are doing so while clearly not knowing or maybe conveniently forgetting the facts. Bush 43 did not go into Iraq to bring Democracy folks....he lied to the American people and said it was because there were weapons of mass destruction and we needed to get a hold on Saddam. This would be the same Saddam that we supported and supplied weapons to until it was no longer convenient. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Besides that, the only person more hated by Bin Laden than Americans was Saddam....and let's not forget that the foray into Iraq took our eyes off of the cause of 9/11 (Bin Laden) in Afghanistan (probably why we've lost him). There were no terrorist cells in Iraq until we destabilized that country. Please don't say that Bush 43 in an altruistic moment invaded Iraq for democracy....that's been the recent spin NOT what he told us in the beginning, until of course what he told us was found to be untrue.

    Fiscally he has got to be the worst President in a long while if not in history. Shocking since his own party is supposed to be all about being fiscally conservative. Bush 43 has incurred more debt in his Presidency than the last 7 presidents combined.
    He has done more to undermine the Constitution, which relies on a balance of powers between three branches of government, than any President in history. He has intentionally attempted to weigh the scale towards having an uneven shift towards the executive branch, which is scary....that balance of power is what was set up by our founders to secure a democracy.

    True patriots speak out when our democracy is being undermined. Blind faith without any evidence to back it up with some reality is dangerous. And unreasonable rantings about how anyone who would question our Commander in Chief should go to Iraq are ludicrous. I would remind you that a whole lot of folks fought and died to establish this nation....certainly they were considered pretty radical at the time since they were opposing the status quo, but I am pretty sure we wouldn't be having this discussion at all if it were not for their vision and sacrifice. I think it's something worth preserving and questioning some of the shannigans of this administration should be the battle cry of any true patriot.

    November 9, 2007 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  14. Frank Johnson, Buffalo, NY

    Oh, boo hoo, King George I! Does a detachment from reality run in the family? Your son has absolutely ruined this country by his actions. He invaded another country on the basis of lies, he has cost us more American lives than the terrorists themselves, he has turned our record budget surplus into a record deficit, and he has completely turned his back on the poor and needy in our own country! And for these actions, you honestly want us to believe that the media is treating him unfairly?!?! Why, if anything, the media has given him so much deference as to embolden his twisted and egocentric views. The old adage is obviously true – "like father, like son!"

    November 9, 2007 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  15. timbuck houston tx

    you're doin' a heck of a job georgie!

    November 9, 2007 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  16. Chris, Sammamish, WA

    Bush is only to blame insofar as allowing Rumsfeld to minimize the capacity of troops during the initial invasion – how can we be so blind as to the fact that the ongoing problems stem from infiltrators who rushed into Iraq after the invasion and were allowed to do so because the United States had their troops spread significantly part to Rumsfeld's new and concise military techniques which ultimately have proved to be a failure in securing a war-torn nation. And how can we sit here and criticize all the non-issues like speaking of Iraq better off with Saddam and such? The fact remains if there were enough troops from the beginning, then the terrorist and extremist would have been significantly minimized to the point that this conversation would not be taking place.

    November 9, 2007 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  17. Surfdog San Diego

    Interesting how few supporters Tush gets anymore on these posts–and the swiftboaters' babblings are still as uninformed as ever. Bush 43 is the worst thing that ever happened to the world and the USA. There's still time to impeach. Jail time...

    November 9, 2007 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  18. Z, Bakersfield, California

    "It seems that so many of the people who have posted thus far have anger issues. They appear so uninformed about what is actually happening in the world."

    This is best.

    It is also ironic. The reason being that YOU are the truly uninformed if you think we are actually doing anything good in that region.

    The country under Saddam or not? This is not the point! The point is, at least Saddam brought some form of stability to that country. ANYONE who thinks that we can unite people who have been fighting each other for thousands of years needs help. You all need that history lesson. Read a book instead of driving around in SUV's eating Taco Bell and watching NASCAR you "freedom" loving lunatics!

    You who would ruin my country by blindly supporting an international criminal administration. You are the ones who would do better in a country like Russia or Iran. This is because they, like you, do not question their leaders, they blindly support them. This is all you are doing, blindly supporting someone who has no interest in your well being. You can have him, i'd rather live in a real free country, like France. They have the stones to stand up when they think something isn't right. I only wish America had that too, we have blind supporters on the Neo Con Right, and we have people who are all talk on the left.

    Where has my country gone?

    November 9, 2007 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  19. Jimmy asheville nc.


    November 9, 2007 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  20. AJ, Albuquerque, NM

    Why, yes, apn, I do happen to think I could do a better job. 🙂

    November 9, 2007 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  21. Jeff Victor,NY

    You inject that there is a major debate about whether the Middle East would be better off with Saddam. Who's the debate between? Please tell me the details. This personal belief on your part is what is typical of CNN reporting. The injection of personal opinion into news stories. Very typical and why you lose more audience everyday.

    November 9, 2007 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  22. Fred, Cleveland, OH

    Someone should tell 41 that 43 is a criminal

    November 9, 2007 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  23. Kirti, San Jose, CA

    Bush 41 is feeling a pain for his son? Think about all the pain inflicted on the orphans/widows/sons/fathers/daughters in the needless Iraq war.

    And for what ? Some lies about WMD, falsified connection of Iraq with 911, oil? Bush 43 single handedly made thsi world a dangerous place.

    Well, I just hope there is accountability, somewhere, if not in this world.

    November 9, 2007 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  24. Will, Montana

    It is amazing how people in this country can sit around in their comfortable, safe, and opportunistic lives and compare our President to someone such as Adolf Hitler and who has tried to give other people around the world a peace they have never endeavored before. President Bush is a man of conviction and high personal moral belief. Now yes you may not agree with him, but at least he has the will to stand up for what he believes is right and is trying to make the world a better and safer place for all of us.

    Proudly serving in this great country’s military and with an older brother also serving, whom is in Iraq right now, I have done two tours over in Iraq and am getting ready to serve a third in a couple of months. I have seen with my own eyes, not what is projected by the zealous media, the good that has gone on over in Iraq. People back here in the states do not see the joy and the excitement of the Iraq people and how happy they are for the coalition troops that give them the opportunity to live, for the first time, in a free society. Yes they are concerned about the rebels and ongoing terrorism, but they much rather have the ability to fight for their own freedom then to live their lives in fear of an oppressed government and the unwillingness to protect its people.

    You say that President Clinton never took us into war, but when was this country attacked during the Clinton administration? The last time this country was attacked, prior to 9/11, was back in 1941, we went to war also. Now we face a new kind of enemy and a new kind of hatred this country has never witnessed before. What has to happen for the people in this country to stand up and say enough is enough. We will not back down, and we will fight until we feel safe.

    We should feel grateful that we have a President that is willing to take on this daunting task. As the world’s superpower, whether you like it or not, we have the obligation to help out all others who live in a life of fear and terror. Just try to put yourself in their shoes for one minute and tell me; would you want help?

    November 9, 2007 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  25. Glen, Boston, MA

    "Rhetoric from the left-wing anti-war code-pink liberals"

    I am not a liberal. I just find it fascinating how any critique of an administration that rigged elections, repeated lie after lie that cost tens of thousands of innocent lives, has put incompetent cronies in positions of power, has ignored the poverty and environmental devastation staring us in the face, and has created a war based on the false pretense that it has anything to do with fighting terrorism is labeled an "anti-war liberal".

    That is an insult to intellectualism and has nothing to do with politics. These are not Republicans in our White House. This is a corrupt administration bankrupt of ethics and morality that has hijacked our government.

    Democrat or Republican, such an administration is a shame to our country. If our democracy is as strong as we believe it to be, critique should be coming from all political perspectives.

    The only reason Clinton was taken down was because his policies threatened to empower the poor at the behest of the status quo.
    Who is really the more unethical?

    November 9, 2007 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
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