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. Adam

    I understand how a father must feel when his son is the most hated man in the world, but the global sentiment is not exactly unwarranted. W. is not the victim here.. The thousands of Americans and Iraqis killed in an unnecessary war are the victims.. The millions without healthcare in this country are the victims. The millions who are increasingly find it difficult to keep up with rising costs are the victims. Our debt that has reached 5 Trillion, our civil rights have been suspended, and our constitution is now no more than a show-and-tell antique at the museum... And we're being unfair???!!!

    November 9, 2007 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  2. HP, Kansas

    Bush 41; At least you're not the absolute worst president we've ever had. Your son has filled those shoes nicely.

    November 9, 2007 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  3. Bob, Saint Louis MO

    All of you bed wetting liberals are so short minded about Iraq.

    November 9, 2007 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  4. Steve, Huntington Beach CA

    Junior can look in the mirror and say he "didn't compromise his core beliefs". That's very true, at least he's not a liar. His core beliefs are

    – lining the pockets of Oil Execs and Defense contractors with taxpayer funds
    – doing whatever it takes to accomplish mission stated above

    One can only hope that when #41 is seeing/reading the news...he also peeks at blogs written by outraged citizens. Families of dead/mutilated American soldiers and Iraqi citizens know firsthand what "grossly Unfair" really is. American families in financial ruin and struggling to put food on the table know what "grossly Unfair" is.

    November 9, 2007 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  5. Turtle, Bayport MN

    I think people should take a step back and realize what kind of bag of poo Bush was left with. A known terrorist attack in NYC that this admin did not know much about, but Billy C. did. Then he was given poor intel, and acted appropriately on it. And aside from that, it is very hard to win a war when soldiers are being put on trial for murder, and everybody cries when a civilian dies, but has no feelings of empathy towards our soldiers. Elect the Mrs. Clinton and find out where America the Great goes.

    November 9, 2007 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  6. Dan Rosson PhD , Memphis, TN

    The argument for going to war was never that Saddam was a bad guy and we are the world policeman and therefore have to go in and remove him. The argument was that he had or nearly had weapons of mass destruction and that he was determined to use them for terrorism. The evidence for WMDs ( aluminum tubes, attempts to buy uranium and a reliable informant who witnessed moblie biological reseach labs) turned out to be deliberate falsifications. Presidents have lied to the country before, but never to take them into a war.

    Would the Middle East have been better off ( or in less of a mess ) with Saddam remaining in power? We'll never know, but over 3000 American soldiers would certainly be alive!

    November 9, 2007 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  7. James, Phoenix AZ

    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.

    Posted By Samuel, Lincoln, NE : November 9, 2007 4:10 pm

    LOL – sure Sam. That's why Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and most DEMOCRATS are voting to kill impeachment hearings on Cheney.

    The "Majority" of the rest of the country already knows?? Since when did 23% of the country (CNN poll citing Bush as the Worst President) become "the Majority".

    You know what – scratch the last question ... expecting an intelligent answer from the likes of your kind is only an exercise in dimished expectations.

    November 9, 2007 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  8. Steve, Huntington Beach CA

    anything less then immediate impeachment and standing trial for War Crimes and High "grossly unfair"

    November 9, 2007 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  9. Ross Fox Halifax, NS

    I don't get – as a Canadian I can never figure out how Bush ever got re-elected. Do his supporters ever use the internet? They seem to have all disappeared – like cockroaches when the light comes on.

    November 9, 2007 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  10. JD, Houston, 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?"

    To answer your questions pappy – Yes, yes, and yes.
    Time to slap shrub off the tittie – you can't bail him out every time, just hang your head in shame like the rest of us do.

    November 9, 2007 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  11. JosephM, Fort Lauderdale, Fl

    The buck stops with any sitting president and he or she must be able to face the critics and accept praise with grace. George W. Bush may be a former president's son but he is answerable to one supreme boss: the American people.

    November 9, 2007 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  12. dj, sd, ca

    Is he joking by asking the question if the middle east is better off with Saddam still being in power! If he thinks his loser boy is "unfairly" criticized because he toppled Saddam why didn't he finish the job back in 1990?

    November 9, 2007 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  13. Robert, Shelton, CT

    Bush 41, as your son was a horrible President, you weren't too much better; I don't know why it took two Bush's in the White House that your family is not fit to hold the highest office.

    O, By the way, if no one knows the Bush's are all originially from Conn., Bush 43 was born here, but they left the state for political gain, what does that tell you?

    November 9, 2007 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  14. P Parker, Simpsonville SC

    Yeah, go ahead and knock Bush around. Ha... I think you are wasting your time because its not like we have a winning ensemble to choose from in 2008. THEN we'll have problems, think we (our country) is getting pushed around now? We'll see...

    November 9, 2007 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  15. MKM, Granville, Ohio

    What about the pain of all the mothers and fathers who have lost their sons and daughters in Bush 43's fiasco in Iraq? Does he ever give a passing thought to the people who have dearly paid for all the horrors of this administration? Does he give a thought to the kids who no longer have their health insurance thanks to his son? The whole Bush family makes me sick – they're disgusting. Anyone who supports Bush is an idiot.

    November 9, 2007 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  16. Larry J, Houston, TX

    I've ALWAYS questioned the judgment of George H.W. Bush and Mrs. Bush: how could they have allowed their son to think he was Presidential material? How could THEY believe he was Presidential material? He had never done anything in his life successfully – on his own. Folks, in Nov 2008 PLEASE don't vote for someone because you might think they would be fun to have a beer with or you like their Mama and Daddy (such nice people). We can't afford another 4 years of incompetence and tragedy.

    November 9, 2007 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  17. Joe St Louis MO

    So, the President's father tells critics to stop picking on his son. I find it interesting that G H W Bush has to come to his son's aid when all he suffers is criticism–much of it deserved–for his ill-conceived war with Iraq, where more than 100,000 soldiers like my son are being shot at every day or living under the threat that an IED could destroy their vehicles. If the current president can subject young men and women to real threats but has to have daddy come to his defense against criticism, then he's weaker than we thought. Poor George.

    November 9, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  18. Bob, Seattle

    Way to bad that Ross Perot got in the way. Then we wouldn't have had to deal with the Clinton nightmares – past and present.

    November 9, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  19. Chris Rockville, MD

    To paraphase Hillary Clinton, this clown Bush "couldn't manage a two car parade".

    November 9, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  20. Blanca DeBree, Fond du Lac, WI

    He ain't stupid. He's my son.

    November 9, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  21. Robert Sebastian, New Orleans, LA

    Poor "41." Of course no one wants Saddam Hussein, but W did not need to start an illegal war based upon lies and his own poor judgment. As former President Carter said, this is the "worst administration in American history."

    November 9, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  22. Paul, Philadelphia

    "Do they think life would be better in the Middle East if Saddam were still there?"

    It is shocking that these do not get the fact that the answer to this question is clearly, "YES, life would be better in the Middle East if Saddam were still there."

    There are few perspectives from which it can be said that life in the Middle East is better now than it was in the spring of 2003.

    "Give me liberty or give me death."

    Congrats, Mr. President, you have given both to the people of Iraq.

    November 9, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  23. Tom, Birmingham, Alabama

    If Bush 41 had any honor, he'd kill his son and then himself. The horror of knowing that he raised a lying traitor must be tearing his feeble old mind apart.

    November 9, 2007 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  24. Jon S. Ann Arbor, Michigan

    If Bush I really cared about his son, he would have kept him from ever running for any office and bringing shame on our country with his incompentency.

    Hey, what about the embarassment and humiliation the American people have to put up with, having Bush II as president?

    November 9, 2007 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  25. AJ, MS

    Well, boo hoo, cry me a river. Bush 41, you are the man's father–you knew what he was, what his limitations and capabilities as a leader were when you encouraged him into the political arena–he wasn't fit to lead a Boy Scout troop, much less a county. Yet you want to complain when people discuss his screwups? The position of President of the United States is too important a job to be handed to someone because of lineage and connections, and Dubya is living proof of this. Are the American people supposed to pat him on the head and say 'That's all right, George, go play at your ranch' just because that's what you did? The man is a screwup, has been a screwup his entire adult life, and by demanding that people back off of his son, George Senior is showing exactly why Dubya ended up that way.

    November 9, 2007 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
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