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. Jeff, Payson, Az

    Papa Bush lets look at sons accomplishments as President. Yes dad sometimes the truth is hard to swallow.

    I attacked and took over two countries.

    I spent the U.S. surplus and bankrupted the Treasury.

    I shattered the record for biggest annual deficit in history.

    I set an economic record for most private bankruptcies filed in any 12-month period.

    I set all-time record for biggest drop in the history of the stock market.

    I am the first president in decades to execute a federal prisoner.

    I am the first president in US history to enter office with a criminal record.
    In my first year in office I set the all-time record for most days on vacation by any president in US history.

    After taking the entire month of August off for vacation, I presided over the worst security failure in US history.
    I set the record for most campaign fund raising trips by any president in US history.

    In my first two years in office over 2 million Americans lost their job.
    I cut unemployment benefits for more out-of-work Americans than any other president in US history.

    I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a 12-month period.
    I appointed more convicted criminals to administration positions than any president in US history.

    I signed more laws and executive orders amending the Constitution than any other president in US history.

    I presided over the biggest energy crises in US history and refused to intervene when corruption was revealed.

    I presided over the highest gasoline prices in US history and refused to use the national reserves as past presidents have.

    I cut health care benefits for war veterans.

    I set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously take to the streets to protest me (15 million people), shattering the record for protest against any person in the history of mankind.

    I dissolved more international treaties than any president in US history.

    I've made my presidency the most secretive and unaccountable of any in US history.

    I am the first president in US history to have all 50 states of the Union simultaneously go bankrupt.

    I presided over the biggest corporate stock market fraud in any market in any country in the history of the world.

    I am the first president in US history to order a US attack and military occupation of a sovereign nation, and I did so against the will of the United Nations and the world community.

    I have created the largest government department bureaucracy in the history of the United States.

    I set the all-time record for biggest annual budget spending increases, more than any other president in US history.

    I am the first president in US history to have the United Nations remove the US from the Human Rights Commission.

    I am the first president in US history to have the United Nations remove the US from the Elections Monitoring Board.

    I removed more checks and balances, and have the least amount of congressional oversight than any presidential administration in US history.

    I rendered the entire United Nations irrelevant.

    I withdrew from the World Court of Law.

    I refused to allow inspectors access to US prisoners of war and by default no longer abide by the Geneva Conventions.

    I am the first president in US history to refuse United Nations election inspectors access during the 2002 US elections.

    I am the all-time US (and world) record holder for most corporate campaign donations.

    The biggest lifetime contributor to my campaign, who is also one of my best friends, presided over one of the largest corporate bankruptcy frauds in world history (Kenneth Lay, former CEO of Enron Corporation).

    I am the first president to run and hide when the US came under attack (and then lied, saying the enemy had the code to Air Force 1)

    I am the first US president to establish a secret shadow government.

    I took the world's sympathy for the US after 911, and in less than a year made the US the most resented country in the world (possibly the biggest diplomatic failure in US and world history).

    I am the first US president in history to have a majority of the people of Europe (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and stability.

    I am the first US president in history to have the people of South Korea more threatened by the US than by their immediate neighbor, North Korea.

    I changed US policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded government contracts.

    I set the all-time record for number of administration appointees who violated US law by not selling their huge investments in corporations bidding for gov't contracts.

    I have removed more freedoms and civil liberties for Americans than any other president in US history. In a little over two years I have created the most divided country in decades, possibly the most divided that the US has been since the civil war.

    I entered office with the strongest economy in US history and in less than two years turned every single economic category heading straight down.

    I have at least one conviction for drunk driving in Maine (Texas driving record has been erased and is not available).

    I was AWOL from the National Guard and deserted the military during a time of war.

    I refuse to take a drug test or even answer any questions about drug use.

    All records of my tenure as governor of Texas have been spirited away to my father¹s library, sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.

    All records of any SEC investigations into my insider trading or bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.

    All minutes of meetings of any public corporation for which I served on the board are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.

    Any records or minutes from meetings I (or my VP) attended regarding public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review.

    For personal references, please speak to my dad or uncle James Baker (They can be reached in their offices at the Carlyle Group where they are helping to divide up the spoils of the US-Iraq war and plan for the next one.

    November 9, 2007 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  2. steve Loudon, TN

    Sarah of Kansas City, the reason that 9/11 killed 3000 Americans is that Clinton DID NOT take Bin Laden when offered to him twice! Also their was no response to the bombing of the twin towers in 1993, no response to the bombing of the USS Cole, no response from the murders and dragging US soldiers through the streets of Somalia (Black Hawk Down), etc. etc., Where was Clinton when nearly a million were murdered in Uganda? You don't think that hundreds of thousands were killed in Iraq and in this country and around the world because of Clinton's inaction? He only "Hurt" 4 people, are you insane or doesn't commiting perjury to a federal judge mean anything? Clinton WAS disbarred, he WAS impeached, he WAS a destroyer of people by personal attack on them. He was the most corrupt president we have ever had. Bush 43 in not the smartest we've had but he is a man of integrity. Bush haters forget the facts, and only express opinion. By the way, a WMD is the Sarin gas used on Saddaam's own people, remember Chemical Ali, who has been sentenced to hang....and the woman who weaponized anthrax for the Iraqi dictator...those ARE WMD's. Nuclear weapons are only one type. And the inspectors were thrown out of IRAQ 2 years before the war. And his own brother in law was killed when he returned to Iraq after telling the world of Sadaam's WMD programs (he was in charge of them!). And finally, parts of nuclear parts and plans were found buried in the gardens of some of the scientists who worked on this are simply living in a fool's paradise.

    November 9, 2007 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  3. Mark Columbus, Ohio

    Hey #41: You have to realize that the media is run by a bunch of left wing nuts. They'll do anything to make your son look as bad as possible. We see now that the number of deaths of soldiers have gone down for four straight months now...but do we hear that from the mainstream press? The answer is a big NO!

    November 9, 2007 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  4. Rodney in Virginia

    No, Brenda in NY, it is YOU that has your head in the sand and appears to be completely out-of-touch with reality. Guess that's why you're defending W...

    November 9, 2007 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  5. VP, Rochester, NY



    I notice a strange trend. The people defending Bush's decisions are idiots.

    Nope, I don't think I could do a better job as president. That's probably because I'm not a politician. That's why I vote and don't run for president.

    As for the next few comments...

    "you are not REAL MEN, you are feminized boys"

    "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."

    "men who don't serve our country or at least support it, are not real men."


    Allfrom the same poster.. well, let me tell you something AJ. If real men all think and act like you, then I would be glad to not be labeled a real man. Ignorant isn't even a good word for you. Your post demonstrates that you are, quite bluntly, a complete and utter idiot. Here's a tip for you that may help you get along in life; people get to decide what their opinions are, you don't get to decide for them. I support our country, I do NOT support our president. He does NOT support our country. Get it through your head. Understand it. Deal with it. Bush will go down as the worst president in history.


    "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?"

    And you, in turn, spend your time whining about us whining, yet you find that to be somehow superior. And the wheel turns. We're in a democracy. Talking and putting forth your ideas IS considered contributing.

    November 9, 2007 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  6. Jeff, Payson, Az

    Come on Papa B, maybe you should have kept Dubya home in the closet.

    For what seems like an eternity, we have eagerly anticipated January 20, 2009–the day George W. Bush must move out of the White House and slink home to Texas. So dismal has been his tenure that three-quarters of Americans apparently feel the same way, and more than one-third support impeachment. There is discussion in the mainstream press as to whether the Bush presidency ranks as the worst ever. Even the formerly sympathetic Washington press corps seems keen to write "The End." Sparked by the recent departures of Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and press secretary Tony Snow, the media have taken to calling Bush a lame-duck President whose political capital is spent and whose attention has turned to his civic afterlife: giving high-priced lectures and fussing over his Freedom Institute and presidential library.

    But relief over Bush's last days should not blind us to this central fact: For the next fourteen months, his Administration is the executive branch. It still runs the occupation of Iraq, approves or vetoes laws and budgets, makes political and judicial appointments, issues federal regulations, negotiates treaties and trade agreements and controls a swollen network of surveillance and law enforcement agencies. Indeed, thanks to the implementation of the "unitary executive" theory and the unprecedented use of signing statements, Bush may be the most powerful and dangerous President in history.

    Even amid the turmoil of this Augusts high-profile departures, the Administration continued to flex its muscles. It asked for–and Congress approved–broadly expanded powers to spy without a warrant on the international phone calls and e-mail of American citizens. Essentially legalizing wiretaps previously conducted in secrecy by the National Security Agency, the law gives the Attorney General and director of national intelligence, both appointed by the President, the authority to approve such surveillance–authority previously held by the judicial branch. The Administration also announced new rules that would require employers to fire any worker whose Social Security number does not match the federal database. These no-match checks, a brazen attempt to create a crisis in order to revive support for Bush's stalled immigration reforms, could affect millions of undocumented workers and imperil thousands of businesses. Then, with Congress in recess, the Administration sent an edict to state health officials that could deny many thousands of children access to the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Earlier, the Senate and House had passed bills that would make S-CHIP available to more kids; Bush has threatened a veto.

    Spying on citizens, threatening financial ruin, depriving children of healthcare–it's hard to imagine a more reckless and unpopular agenda. But this Administration has rarely bothered with political reality; it has imposed its own version of it against the will of Congress and the people.

    This fall will test the lame duck's ability to continue down this path. Democrats in Congress should insist on independent investigations into Attorneygate and other Administration scandals. Also looming are battles over Iraq War funding; reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act; passage of farm and energy bills; approval of free-trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Peru; and hearings over Bush's next Attorney General nominee. These are not modest proposals. And a continuation of the status quo in Iraq spells disaster. By one rough estimate an Iraqi is killed every ten minutes and an American soldier, every ten hours. And every ten days, $2 billion is taken from our Treasury and pumped into the coffers of Blackwater, Halliburton and other war profiteers.

    As a beleaguered public looks forward to the 2008 election and Bush's departure, anticipation must not induce complacency. Vigorous Congressional resistance is important, but it can only be a partial counterweight. Because this President has amassed extraordinary executive powers, normal checks and balances are insufficient, and there is little Congressional Democrats can do in the face of eleventh-hour regulations and vetoes. This is why during the next fourteen months we must not play a waiting game. There must be a wellspring of public activism and media vigilance. No matter how weak this President may seem, he intends to go out with a roar. Now is not the time for the bleating of sheep.

    November 9, 2007 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  7. Ron Paul, USA

    QUOTE "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?"

    Ummmm, yes, yes, and yes!

    November 9, 2007 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  8. More to come

    Poor ole Pappy Bush forgot about the Swift Boaters.


    November 9, 2007 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  9. RB, from the bay state

    Amen, Jeff from AZ – well stated.

    November 9, 2007 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  10. VP, Rochester, NY

    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.


    And I talk for real. How dare you suggest that, because you fought in this war, your opinion is any more right than anybody elses? Come down off of yourself and see reality. I don't have to be a soldier in a worthless war to have a voice.

    How would fighting in Iraq, in any way, change my mind about our president's idiocy? It's probably that it would expose me to atrocities and horrible things that I understand he caused, likely souring my opinion of him even more (if that's possible).

    CNN has nothing to do with how most of us feel. The intelligent ones in this country have plenty of good reasons for hating president Bush, and we make those decisions on our own, we don't need media to pat us on the back and push us along. I could care less what the media thinks.

    While CNN is spilling the venom, Bush is spilling the blood of Americans, spilling the blood of Iraqis, spilling the blood of our economy and our international reputation. What's worse? You'd have to be a lunatic to not know the answer.

    November 9, 2007 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  11. leigh, Pa.

    Hey 41, Your kid is a loser..face it!!

    He's brought this country to it's knees just like the failed businesses he's had!!

    Your son should be impeached and hauled away in handcuffs along with your friend Cheney too!

    P.S. He hasn't even learned the English language yet!! What a first class a**hole!

    November 9, 2007 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  12. Ray Andrews, Bonners Ferry, Idaho

    I saw the headline "Lay off my son," and I felt a brief glimmer of hope. Sadly, this expression has two meanings, and he meant the other one...

    November 9, 2007 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    You should be proud of your son for standing up for what is good in the long run rather than being submissive to popular opinion.

    November 9, 2007 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  14. Bob NY

    The history books will show that Bush 41 put together a multi-national army bigger than other.., until Bush 43.

    November 9, 2007 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  15. Joe, Bellingham, Washington

    To paraphrase you Mr. President, I think you should keep your mouth shut when it comes to your son lest the nation begins an investation into how much money you and the Bin Laden family made with United Defence when the United States was attacked on 9-11.
    As the former head of the CIA YOU were head of the intelligence agency responsible for probably as much death world wide as your son is Iraq. That is a fact. You should be grateful you are not currently in prison for your crimes. So zip it up "Mr. President".


    November 9, 2007 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  16. Tom Tracy, Brewster, MA

    The elder Bush and family are clearly out of touch with reality. We saw it during the Nixon administration where right to the end, Nixon couldn't face up to the facts of his own deception.

    Saddam was a brutal tyrannt there is no argument about that. However, he managed to contain the diverse forces that are now reeking havoc in Iraq. When will we (the US) learn that not all peoples and countries are ready for or desire democratic rule. We've destroyed a country's infrastructure, killed, maimed and made homeless countless Iraqis, further inflamed the Mideast, and needlessly shed the blood of our own soldiers in a war that should never have happened. Force is not the answer to right the perceived evils of the world. Respect for others, dialog and understanding will ultimately bring diverse ideas and ideologies to the table and only then can a compromise be reached. Hopefully our next President will understand this.

    November 9, 2007 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  17. Vince

    Dear Pappy,

    I took your son's place in Vietnam.

    November 9, 2007 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  18. Al Garcia

    Leave litto Bush ALONE,..RIGHT...NOW!! and I mean it!! Why do you people think think tht bashing someone like Britny Bush is so professional! leave Britany Bush alone right...NOW!

    November 9, 2007 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  19. J. DiLullo Lakeland, Fl

    How ironic! Bush 41 lashes out for he aches for his son, Bush 43. He fails to comprehend that the American people are lashing out, too. We ache for our sons and daughters. Sons and daughters crippled, maimed, or dead. The only thing that is Grossly Unfair is 43's handling of our children. Sacrifices to the hubris of the Bush/Cheney war machine. May God have mercy on their souls.

    November 9, 2007 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  20. Stephen M Haverhill Massachusetts

    Granted Clinton was extremely stupid for what he did with the intern, but trying to impeach over that is ridiculous compared to going to war via a lie [WMD's my ass] and killing thousands of Americans and Iraqis and alienating us in the world,way to go 43.

    November 9, 2007 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  21. JR, Houston, TX

    41 should have taken his son behind the woodshed a long time ago. We wouldn't be knee deep in doo-doo right now. And, yes, I believe that the middle east would have been a lot more secure if 43 hadn't meddled there.

    November 9, 2007 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  22. Barbara, Dallas, TX

    The Bushes are a self perpetuating problem. It all started with George 41's father who was a Connecticutt Senator from 52-63 and who helped George 41 get prestigious Congressional assignments when he was elected as a Representative from TX. And then George 41 pulled the strings for George 43 to get elected Governor of TX and then President. None of them have had a lick of sense.
    I admit, back in about 1970 when George 41 ran for Senator from TX (and lost), I got sucked in and worked my backside off for the guy. By the end of the campaign, I was starting to think maybe he wasn't the upstanding guy he claimed to be. [Anybody else who worked in the Dallas office & ever met "Kathi" ('with an i') knows what I'm taking about. Wonder what ever happened to her. Must be enjoying her hush money somewhere, who knows.]
    I had the experience of dealing with his ignorant son many years later when George 43 was Governor of TX. I served on a regional transportation committee and we went to Austin at least 4-5 times to meet with GW. Every single time we went, he didn't have a clue who most of us were, why we were there, or what the issues were. But he was great at grinning & slapping backs & telling jokes & saying "here, let's get our picture made".
    I can hardly for wait Nov. 2008 and January 2009. It's GOT to better than what's in there now. And I think there's PLENTY to impeach Dick Cheney– just nobody up there has the brass ones to force the issue.

    November 9, 2007 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  23. nick aniotzbehere

    ohhhh...i thought it said "lay off my son" as in, "sorry sir, your job is over, you have been laid off."

    I thought bush 41 had finally come to his senses and realized he never should have conceived 43 near a microwave.

    November 9, 2007 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  24. Ron B Glendale, CA

    Interestingly I can remember the criticism that "41" took when he ended the "original" Gulf war after liberating Kuwait. There was intense criticism that he did not "finish what he started and go all the way to Baghdad". "41" decided that his mandate with the participating middle eastern nations was to end with the liberation of Kuwait.

    After many years of "containment" there remained what appeared to many a strong threat to both middle east and US security which was exacerbated by the 9/11 attacks.

    That said, the middle east has been a disaster for my entire lifetime (I am 47) and although a great cost has been incurred, the attempt to democratize this nation was a noble effort. It also appeared obvious from all the news video during their elections that the President's contention that the Iraqi people yearned for their freedom and that it was integral to all humankind and is the foundation of our great nation seemed to hold true when I saw the long lines of people facing possible terrorist attacks and STILL decided to go their polling places. How many Americans take the time to vote? 35% maybe....?

    Democracy in Iraq may fail (probably will) but as we all know EVERY other attempt has likewise failed to stabilize this voltile region.

    That said, there is no question that the war was poorly and arrogantly managed as there were insufficient troops to do the required work after the initial overthrow. I am sure a great deal of consideration was given to the support (or lack thereof) the American people would have given to the size of troop build-up that might have been necessary to confront the initial insurgency.

    November 9, 2007 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  25. SDM, Glendale, California

    For those who think some people are too harsh with their comments...get over it. IT'S CALLED FREE SPEACH!!!

    This Administration has disgraced this great country and all that it once stood for. I love this country and I can only hope and pray that it will one day be great.

    November 9, 2007 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
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