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. Brian, San Francisco CA

    Like father like son, failure and done.

    November 9, 2007 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  2. r schier norwalk,ct

    "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?"

    Like we're supposed to a critical assessment from the ringleader himself seriously? I saw this pathetic man perform this same act earlier this year somewhere on TV...trying to convince us his son isn't "dim", using his daddy-purchased ivy-degree as proof. I've even read some earlier reports that B41 told his son he didn't think it was a good idea to invade again; not sure if this is true or not, but wouldn't surprise me that he changes his tune now. And yeah, B43 sure needs much empathy !! hardy-har-har...

    November 9, 2007 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  3. Carolyn

    Oh wait a minute and let me grab some tissues so I can cry rivers of tears for the man that has murdered so many and taken the rights away from so many others. Let us all cry together for him! Geeesh, like father like son – stupid is as stupid does!

    November 9, 2007 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Really? All of you are bashing this article? It's a puff piece. And Bush isn't Hitler. Can we get away from trying to re-fight WW2? Instead of Hitler can we have Bush, Hussein, and the rest? That would be really nice.

    And how does anybody know that containment was working? I'm sorry, but nobody has any idea what people in the Pentagon and all our other "secret" labs are seeing. Face it, you don't know jack. You think you do, but you don't. And I don't.

    The question is: do you allow bad things to happen for the sake of stability? In your personal life you would say, "No." But most of you will say, "In politics, yes." So, in politics you sell out.

    But then all of you will turn around and say again, "I hate politicians. They are always selling out."

    November 9, 2007 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  5. Doro, USA

    Perhaps if President Bush 41 reads today's CNN article, "Iraq crisis: Moms, Dads Abandoning Kids," he might answer his own questions if they're not merely rhetorical.

    November 9, 2007 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  6. Samuel, Lincoln, NE

    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!

    Posted By Ca Native : November 9, 2007 3:13 pm

    Most of us do not share the view of this ignorant hick. Bush '43 was appointed by the Supreme Court to "restore honor to the office of the presidency" but instead has disgraced it. He has NEVER done what was right but instead what was politically expedient for him, his father, and his buddies in the oil and defense contracting business.

    I never fail to be amazed at how sanctimonious right wing blowhards continue to disparage Bill Clinton and point to Bush as some sort of example of virtue when every objective fact shows that this country did much better under the Clinton presidency than it has under seven years of the Bush presidency.

    Even if Bush and Cheney aren't impeached by the end of 2008 I'm confident that his successor (a Democrat) and the Congress (also Democratically controlled) will uncover vast evidence of malfeasance, corruption, cronyism, and crimes committed against the Constitution of the United States as well as against the Geneva Convention and humanity. With any luck at all, this will lead to the criminal conviction and sentence that these two bozos so richly deserve. Then "Ca Native" can see how truly despicable these two individuals truly are. Fortunately, a majority of the rest of the country already knows.

    November 9, 2007 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  7. mike, philadelphia

    I feel your pain Bush 41, if my son was such a disgraceful loser, I'd feel bad about it too. Little Georgie could not have done a worse job. he failed to catch bin Laden, he failed to bring democracy to the middle east, he couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag, he ruined our economy, divided our country, and with the exception of a shrinking number of die hard republican simpletons, everyone in the world hates him for what he really is. an international terrorist and war criminal who has absolutely no regard for america or americans.

    November 9, 2007 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  8. marquis

    President Bush (41) is missing the part of his presidential library at Texas A&M that talks about how the Kuwaitis used the ambassador's daughter to pretend to be a nurse from a Kuwaiti hospital. She sat there and lied before Congress about Iraqis killing little babies. Kuwait spent millions of dollars on the PR campaign to convince the dumb Americans to liberate their country (something that most Americans did not support when Hussein invaded). The museum is also missing the financial relationship that exists between the Bush, Kuwaitis,and Saudis. It's also missing the part that talks about how Rumbsfeld, Reagan, and Cheney funneled guns, bombs, and artillery to Hussein who was a US ally when they were fighting against the Iranians who hated us because we forced the Shah down their throat.

    November 9, 2007 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  9. LB, Franklin Lakes, NJ

    If taking out Saddam was the "right" thing to do then why didn't Bush 41 do it during the first Gulf War?

    November 9, 2007 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  10. Jonathan, Detroit, Michigan

    I understand his frustration. The Democrats will stop at nothing to 'regain' the White House, including viscious and unwarranted attacks against President Bush. History will tell the correct story...not the outlandish rhetoric the Democrats keep screaming at us. Unforunately, there are many who are fooled into believing their desparate attemps to regain the White House.

    November 9, 2007 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  11. Dave, Austin

    Bush 43 will only be remembered as the president who killed his country.

    November 9, 2007 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  12. trent porter, tx

    Bush 43 is actually doing very good at bankrupting our country and spending all of our hard earned tax dollars to rebuild a huge mistake.

    Bush 41, you should be ashamed of what 43 has done.

    November 9, 2007 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  13. Rick, Baltimore, MD

    I doesn't really matter who is the "boss"... people will be hateful toward the prez whether he or she be from the left or the right. Those who can't... write about it.

    November 9, 2007 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  14. Bryan, Lafayette, LA

    I'm still amazed when I can read personal commentary that says they're "proud" of Bush 43. Reality aside, do some people still really think if they can bash members of the left then they've done their job as Americans, case over, their point's been proven?

    Take the President from SEVEN years ago, for example: Bill lied? Bush 43 lied about the cost of war, the reasons for going to war, he lied about education, about his arrest record, about his dismissal from USAF, he refused to testify before the 9/11 commission nor did he pay attention to his campaign issues after the elections of 2000 and 2004. At this point it's almost easier to say what Bush 43 has been honest about–it will take less time but Bill lied.

    November 9, 2007 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |


    November 9, 2007 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  16. Andrew, McHenry, IL

    I had respect for Bush Senior. But I have none for G. W. Bush. He is a liar and a coward. He has ordered the destruction of a country for his and his father's croney's gain. As I said, I "had" respect for Bush Senior. I hope they get what they deserve someday.

    November 9, 2007 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  17. Pat Bom

    Bush screwed Americans.. by his ingenuous War and his kiddish rhetoric. Look at him he has no clue about what is happening around.. Just listens to DICK, CONdi and the NeoCNS and acts as their Rubber Stamp.. This President has been a disgrace to not only America but the countries that have successful Democracies. As they say 'In democracy, people deserve what they get', coz it's their choice. Bush has been People's choice (mistake made) not once but twice. Look at the way people are suffering.. bad economy, mortgage meltdown, hurricanes, fires, soldiers dying, the quagmire called Iraq, meddling with Pakistan and supporting Musharraf (who is actually a mini-Saddam).... Right or doesn't matter... when people sway too much to oneside.. they often end up with consequences like this through their choices like Bush...Middle ground is always good for everyone..Live and Let Live.. As Gandhi said, "An Eye for an Eye Makes the whole World Blind"

    November 9, 2007 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  18. Paul Mt. Laurel, NJ

    Hey Ca Native, STOP DRINKING THE COOL-AIDE. Bush 41, an honorable man. The same can not be said for 43.

    November 9, 2007 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  19. Franklin Brennan

    Bush 41 has the IQ of a malnourished roach. His son, #43, measures out on a scale much lower than accommodates roaches. What both need is the pressure of a huge shoe on their backs. SPLAT!

    November 9, 2007 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  20. crabfat fenwick island, de

    What about the parents of our children who gave their life for this mess...what about their pain! He gets no sympathy from me.

    November 9, 2007 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  21. Peter Silva, Dallas, TX

    "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?" – Bush Sr.

    Yes! The region would have been better off with Saddam in power. The region was calm, Shia and Sunnis were having their rituals, children including women were going to schools, colleges, markets without fear. People were getting electricity, clean water, free health care, religious freedom (some extent).
    There was no Al-Queda, Iran was in total check, weapons inspector have almost certified that the country had no nuclear and biological weapons with only few of the inspections remained, and most importanly Saddam never attacked US and was no threat to us. Knowing all this how can 41 is defending 43? If this had happened on Clintons watch, these same people had imeached him and his entire team.

    November 9, 2007 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  22. Jane, Pueblo, CO

    The only good thing about George W. Bush being re-elected as President in 2004 is that he can't run for President again. I'm glad that we will actually be seeing a change in the White House next year, let's just hope it's a change for the better.

    November 9, 2007 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  23. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    I can't help but think that Poppy and Bar are privately very embarrassed by W's obstinacy and stupidity on Iraq. But parents can refuse to see a lot a things in their kids.

    November 9, 2007 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  24. AJ; Montpelier, VT

    He should be aching for the nation.

    November 9, 2007 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    Bush hates America

    I cant believe people still use Clintons lies as an argument after all of the traitorous things Bush has done to our country. Lets not also forget this traitor attitude runs deep in the Bush family just look at Prescot Bush's past then we can have a totally disconnected Bush 41 cry about his dad too.

    November 9, 2007 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
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