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 L.

    Is he kidding? Dubya was his revenge on the American people for kicking his sorry butt out of office. Truth is, Ronald Reagan left him such a huge budget mess, he had to close hundreds of military bases and raise taxes to fix it. So he got the boot, because he had campaigned on "read my lips, no new taxes". Ronald Reagans reckless voodoo economics resulted in....Bill Clinton.

    November 9, 2007 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  2. JSM - South Bend, IN

    How many of you people that are complaining about the current state of things and blaming others actually took the time out of your lives to vote? I realize this is a away from the subject of the article, but I am tired of hearing people complain about the current environment in the World. Often times when I have come across these "complainers" and asked them point blank if they did something as simple as take part in the democratic process that our freedom and country allows, many of them say no.

    You want change, then vote. Take part in the process. Don't sit back and hide behind a computer screen venting about your thoughts.

    At the end of the day, we have soldiers abroad who are putting their lives at risk. Here is a novel idea, how about the country rallies around them and the work they are doing and the families they left behind?

    November 9, 2007 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  3. C Cady, Seattle WA

    What else could 41 say and who really cares! I think many in this country are basically waiting for the clock to run out on this presidency. I only hope that 43 devotes 2008 to planning his library and not going into Iran.

    November 9, 2007 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  4. Jim, Medford, OR

    Is 41 really saying that he was wrong and his bozo of a son is right? That seems to be the case by his comment "Do they want to bring back Saddam Hussein?" 41 defeated Saddam and then intentionally left him in power!! I can't believe it!!

    November 9, 2007 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  5. j, Omaha NE

    I am sure it has been said, but Dad please make your son, "lay of us!"

    November 9, 2007 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  6. Chris W.

    Strange that daddy thought differently in Iraq I. Bush 41 took some heat for not taking down Saddam, but history shows us that it was the right choice. What is criminal is daddy now defending a son that he once described as "so disappointing."

    Boy George will go down in American history as the prototype anti-intellectual, evangelical, conservative that has hijacked the Republican party. Textbooks will be written about our blunders in electing such a fool.

    Oh america, can we return to greatness?

    November 9, 2007 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  7. Matt, Albany, GA

    Most of you who have posted on this get no sympathy for me. You don't work hard enough for it. You forget what a great country this is how blessed we are by God to live here. Some days and lives are harder than others, but I think the goal of most Americans is to make life better for their children so they can do the same for their children. These postings are sad and I'm glad I'm not in your pity party.

    November 9, 2007 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  8. Peter Zheutlin, Needham, MA

    Bush 43 defends everything he does by reminding us, as if we had forgotten, that "there's an enemy out there." Bush 41 defends the incompetence with which the Iraq war is being fought by reminding us that Saddam was a bad guy. We know that. No one is arguing the point. That hardly justifies the current President's utter incompetence and failure to heed the warnings, some by members of his father's cabinet, about the complexities of post-Saddam Iraq. Bush 43 deserves all the criticism he has received and MORE. Never has a president worked so diligently to undermine core American values, or done as much damage to the American cause in the world. bib Laden delivered a terrible blow, but our self-inflicted wounds are going to take decades to overcome.

    November 9, 2007 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  9. Michelle D. Atlanta

    Deep, deep denial. Must be a genetic defect in the Bush Family.

    With Hussein (at least) it was the "evil we knew" vs. what we have now: the "evil we don't know".

    These people didn't want democracy and we have no right to invade their country and push it down their throats.

    I understand Senior defending Junior, but come on, call a spade a spade and let's move on with re-building this country into the great nation it was before Dubya got hold of it and ran it into the ground!

    November 9, 2007 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  10. Rick / Harpers Ferry / WV

    I have great respect for Bush 41. I had great expectations for Bush 43 but after his performance during critical moments in time, I am very disappointed. We needed leadership and unity and at this late stage we still don't have anything like that. I would dare him and/or the Republican Politburo to use the term 'compassionate republican'. I think half the U.S. would hurl.

    November 9, 2007 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  11. Michelle, VA

    Boohoo! How about the children in Iraq being abandoned by their parents? This country is not respected around the world, the economy is in shambles, we are deeply in debt-China is paying for the war, do you know Mr. President, we'll have to pay them back! How about jobs? And you are fishing with daddy when Americans are getting poorer by the day!

    I cannot wait to see this idiot go.

    November 9, 2007 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  12. Charles, Pikeville, KY

    Bush 41, your son without question is the worst person to ever occupy the White House. You were, I think, a decent man and it's so difficult to imagine how the bad apple fell so far from the tree!!

    Because of your offspring, thousands of America's best are dead and can never realize their dreams. Thousands more Iraqis are also dead. Even more are homeless. The American economy is in shambles and Bush 43 crawls around on his idiotic knees, mocking and asking where are the weaopons of mass destruction.

    I am a father and fully understand your frustration and pain. But, do you have any idea of the pain and suffering your son has inflicted on the U.S. and the rest of the world?

    Your son is an evil man. At best he is a liar. At worst, he is far more despicable than Hitler or any other dictator. America will not recover in my lifetime from his horrors. The ill will toward this country because of your son will take at least a hundred years to quell.

    I know how difficult it is to face reality in our children. But the truth is your son is a horrible excuse for a human being and has caused untol pain, horror and suffering upon the American people and the rest of the world.

    Oh, he has plenty of company in those situations: Cheney, Rice, Powell, Wolfowitz, and even the current crop of criminals that he has yet to pardon!

    I wish you well, sir! I wish your son godpseed to get out of office and out of sight forever.

    November 9, 2007 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  13. Abraham Medina, Hurst, Texas

    Father Bush should not be one sided. He should realize that his son has done worse than what he sees in TV almost everyday. His son did not only deceive the American people into invading Iraq for non-existent WMDs which he most likely knew beforehand as reported by Scott Ritter, who headed UNSCOM, but also must now feel the burden of guilt for the continued sacrifice and killing in vain, of so far, more than 3000 American volunteer soldiers and more than half a million innocent Iraqi men, women and children who would still be alive today were it not for the war he initiated just to get him reelected by deception. Please read and review my book- "The Eleventh Commandment", published by IUniverse, where I expose the truth and the conspiracy that led to this immoral and unAmerican war in Iraq that you and I and the rest of the American people are now paying dearly with our tax money and the lives of our volunteer soldiers. No wonder, today, our president has disgracefully been voted as the worst president ever. Thank you.

    November 9, 2007 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  14. Charlie, Petersburg, Virginia

    I read all these anti-Bush comments but I bet not one of you would have any better reaction to 9/11. Also, get your little facts straight because it is Iran fueling the Insurgency. We invaded Iraq because we have a reputation for helping the opressed. How is it our fault that the extremists choose to blow their brothers and our troops up? This is nothign short of a lack of readily available facts to the consumer and is why out nation is so polarized. I'm tired of the people who say "Why didn't we ivade Korea if we only invaded Iraq to spread Democracy?". Because Bush AND THE CONGRESS: Democrats included, voted to authorize the war. These retractions the candidates are spewing for their votes are nothing short of trying to gain cheap points with the voter.
    Let me ask you all something. How many people die daily in the United States? How many people are murdered daily? How many people are kidnapped, mutilated, killed, robbed, run over, or shot in America?
    I see no real difference. People die everywhere, the fact is that (in order to gain viewership and reader interest), some deaths are covered more than others.

    George Bush Jr. isn't the best president ever, but he certainly isn't a dictator, mogul, or murderer.

    Grow up kiddies, look around you and at our own society before you critize another country.

    November 9, 2007 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  15. Henry Allain, San Juan Cap, CA

    Deal with it 41–You're son is the President of the Unites States- And a buffon

    November 9, 2007 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  16. Nodack Phx, AZ

    Bush 41 asks if we think life would be better if Saddam was still in power?

    I think life would be much better than death for the 100,000 people killed in this ill concieved war so far. Most of them innocent victims. Nobody gave them a vote on whether to die or not, but as long as we feel safer I guess it's all worth it right?

    Do you feel safer?

    November 9, 2007 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  17. aaron, Gladstone, Mo

    Saying that Iraq was better off under the control of Saddam is nothing sort of ludicrous. Is the war in Iraq more than we bargained for? Yes. Has President Bush made some bad decisions? Yes. Have lots of innocent lives been lost in the process? Yes. However, unless you blindly disregard the sentiments of the Iraqi people there is NO way that it can be argued that Iraq was better off under the control of such an awful dictator as Saddam.

    Posted By Matthew, Roanoke, Virginia : November 9, 2007 6:58 pm

    However, in this commentary, no one mentions how Bush 41 actually felt that it was better not to remove Hussein after the Gulf War on his watch. He specifically said there would be a huge cost and a long occupation if Hussein were removed... and allowed him to continue as ruler of Iraq.

    His comments really come off as a fatherly comment on his son, which one wonders if he really believes. His breakdown at the event for Jeb was a lot more authentic.

    November 9, 2007 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  18. Richard, West Palm Beach, FL

    "Clinton had his chance to get bin laden and did nothing.Bush has done everything but look for him himself.If you people really want to see this Country go to hell put another Clinton in office."
    Bush failed to get bin Laden at Tora Bora. Another time, he canceled a mission already in flight to kill top al Qaeda members. He shut down an agency that had a primary job of looking for bin Laden. He also said "You know, I just don't spend that much time on him, Kelly, to be honest with you." and "I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him.". It's certainly no one's idea of doing everything he could.

    November 9, 2007 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  19. Justin, Newark NY

    Hey Mike; As a supplement to your comment: Are the people of America actually free people? Anyone who feels so should examine the raw definition of "freedom", and draw their own conclusions. As for this article; I am a father myself. If I hear of my elder son roughing up a neighbor's child, I intervene before the situation escalates; not defend his actions. Sound familiar? Hey Dad, your turn to listen and react. By the way; who REALLY advised him to invade Iraq?

    November 9, 2007 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  20. Bernie Moore-Knowles - Papa'aloa, Hawai'i

    Empathy? Surely, you are kidding? A father's pain? Goodness, there in his swank Maine home – the former President is unnerved by the public's opinion of his son? Could be that the Haliburton investments are easing the pain for the Bush and Cheney families? I'll tell you what, Bush 41 (Is that crazy in itself?) – the day I see a member of the Bush family in fatigues and fighting in the Middle East? That will be the day I have empathy for you and your son. Shame on the Bush family. Shame on them all. At what point will "these people" get it? They are in a bubble of denial. Tell me how Bush 43 (I feel sick just thinking about that name.) ever got where he is? Silver spoon? Silver lining? Silver tarnishes with age and there comes a time when it is not a high grade silver that one just has to give it up and toss it. Bush 43? You are gone. Thank heavens.

    November 9, 2007 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  21. Scott from Freehold

    Sorry, Mr. President, but your son is a moron. When he lays off of us, we will lay off him. It must be hard to have a son who is destroying the country.

    November 9, 2007 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  22. JKS from NH

    To Rod in Florida:
    As per your comment-Please explain why it makes sense to wage war against a foreign nation,only to spend years (and US tax dollars) rebuilding the "enemy's" country??!!

    November 9, 2007 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  23. FED UP

    Bush-41 had only one term because he was a loser. The son has had two terms (God knows why), and he too is a loser. But both were elected by a whole bunch of losers, and to me this is the problem. Only a group of knuckle dragging, nose picking, mouth breathing idiots would allow this to happen to the nation. And, any of you who believe the country is better off today than it was 7 years ago must be completely brain dead.

    November 9, 2007 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  24. Sian, LA CA

    President Bush is the best president ever. He is facing a dangerous threat to our nation. He is also keeping a deadly fight off of our soil and onto their soil. Look at these quotes from the Koran and judge for yourself why we need to confront terrorism...

    4.89 : They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah's way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper.

    9.29: Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.

    3.85: And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers.

    November 9, 2007 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  25. Steven Franklin, New York, NY

    I hope that history has no mercy on either of the Bush Presidents, as it will take decades to clean up the mess that they created. A constitutional amendment to prevent the election of children, siblings or spouses should be undertaken immediately, considering the emotional baggage that results in proven conflicts of interests and disastrous judgment. No Hillary, no Jeb, no Chelsea!!! Stop the madness.

    November 9, 2007 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
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