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. greg harrisburg pa.

    No!Daddy President, we are not going to lay off your son. You were an okay President. However your son destroyed this country. Why don't you take your son aside and tell him how much of a F_ _ _ up he is. Your son is an complete idoit. You might love your son. But the american people donot.If you have to cheat and lie your way into office then what kind of person are you. Your son is a lier and a cheat and a fake. and you can take that to the bank....greg...

    November 9, 2007 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  2. marie mcgrattan, los angeles, ca

    I guess the apple doesnt fall far.. the father is as delusional as the son.
    I'm sure the parents of the Iraq veterans feel the same 'ache' for their children that Bush senior mentions– except their kids are limbless, brain-injured- or dead.

    November 9, 2007 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  3. BRIAN, FLORIDA

    HERES A NEWS FLASH FOR GEORGE H W BUSH.YOUR SON WILL SAVE YOU FROM BEING THE WORST PRESIDENT IN MODERN HISTORY. BILL CLINTON CLEANED UP YOUR MESS AND NOW HILLARY CLINTON WILL CLEAN UP YOUR SONS MESS.

    November 9, 2007 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  4. Vic, Las Vegas, Nevada

    Poor Poor 41.

    I can only speculate that 43 got his whinney side from good ol 41.

    Regan was right about Bush 1 being a whimp.

    Bush 43 is simply a sadistic ego maniac.

    FIX THIS BROKEN GOVERNMENT

    VOTE DEMOCRAT IN 08!

    November 9, 2007 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  5. Angel, Loas Angeles of Anaheim

    Right on, what Mike said....

    November 9, 2007 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  6. Tm A Pembroke Pines, Fl

    If 41 cared more about this country than his family's pride, he would ask his son to step down. But I imagine he would rather be the second worst president in US history.

    November 9, 2007 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  7. Bill, Columbus, OH

    Cry me a river. W is the worst president in the history of this country (depending on how much worse things get next year, it could be decisive) and deserves every foul word spoken about him.

    November 9, 2007 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  8. Gary C., Stevens Point, WI

    Now I know why "Bush 43" is such an ass.

    November 9, 2007 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  9. Jim , Madison, WI

    Interesting that this article runs on the day a front web page article runs on the children of Iraq and the hell they will now have to go through for the rest of their short lives. Poor Georgie, life is so hard on the rich undeserving, self serving elite. Bush and Cheney are guilty of conspiring to out a CIA operative. That is treason and should be punishable by hanging. I will pay a lot of money to watch that on pay per view

    November 9, 2007 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  10. Josh, Los Angeles, CA

    Is it just me, or is this article bad journalism? Don't get me wrong, it leans the way I like, but still...

    "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."

    This is clearly a writer interjecting their own voice into a news story. Beyond that, there should be a comma after "actually".

    If we liberals are really running the media, can we be a bit less sloppy please?

    Thanks.

    November 9, 2007 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  11. Scott, Minneapolis, MN

    Mr President Bush 41, I admired you and still do. But President Clinton made me a Democrat. And then your misguided son President Bush 43 made me a "raging" Democrat, sworn to never ever vote Republican again for anything.

    Any man wants to be proud of his children, and certainly you will find things in W to be proud of. It's too bad you have to look under such a huge pile of raging, unapologetic incompetence and misguided ideology to find it.

    November 9, 2007 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  12. Chad, Wisco

    Im so glad that a little article about a father sticking up for a son has taken off like this. Dont people think for themselves anymore. Democrats arent good, Republicans are good. The good people are the Americans who think for themselves and dont feel the need to take a side because both sides can be right and wrong. Too many people are looking at these elections like a football game. My side is better than yours because its my side. Politics was created to elect people that share your views. Who was the last politician that not only agreed with you 100%, but then actually did it. Dont vote one way because you say you are Democrat or a Republican, vote because you agree with someone's views and points.

    November 9, 2007 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  13. Another CA native, Los Angeles, CA

    Your son spills blood for money and oil. Aren't you proud?

    November 9, 2007 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  14. Frank, New York

    Garbage doesn't fall far from the can...

    November 9, 2007 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  15. Chad, Wisco

    Sorry for the typo, I meant to say Democrats arent good, Republicans arent good. My bad.

    November 9, 2007 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  16. Steve, Miami, FL

    Well Mr. Bush 41, you can always think about your other son, Neil. Oh yes, that's right, the whole S&L fiasco. Well then, there's always Jeb. Oh whatever happened to him after he left the governor's office in Florida? You know, you might as well just unplug those many televisions in your study and not pay attention to anything like your son Bush 43 does. It seems to work for him as he's not paid any attention to anything for the last 7 years.

    November 9, 2007 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  17. Jennifer K., Tulsa, OK

    Lovely sentiments from the father of the man who is, on a daily basis, solidifying his legacy as the worst American president in history. I'll bet the fathers of the soldiers lost in this war love their children equally.

    November 9, 2007 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  18. J Houston, TX

    Bush 41, Yes the middle east would be better off than it is now if Saddam had been left in power but contained. Containment was working, Bush 43 opened the pit of hell on the Iraqi people.

    Yeah that's the solution. Don't deal with problems, let him abuse his own people, destroy civil rights, defy the UN, and sell oil illegally to Europe.

    Has the deathtoll in Iraq even reached the genocide totals of Saddam's rule? Read up on some history...

    November 9, 2007 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  19. PD, Iowa City IA

    The link was titled, "Ticker: Bush 41: Lay off my son"

    I thought maybe Bush Sr. had finally come to his senses. I want to see his son get laid off, too.

    November 9, 2007 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  20. Patrick, Austin, TX

    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

    I wonder how proud you will be when your children have a 40%+ tax rate in order to pay back all the money Bush 41 borrowed from China so that the top 1% of U.S. income earners can have a fat tax cut and to pay for his war. The middle east was much more stable under a contained Saddam. The Iraq war was one of choice. Afghanistan was necessary, Iraq was not.

    November 9, 2007 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  21. scott, manchester NH

    we're not the ones who pushed W2 to run for Prez...so,...W1...why dont you blame Rove for his slimeball sleazemachine and sending your schmuck of a son straight into hell...

    and dragging america with him...

    disgraceful..

    November 9, 2007 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  22. Howard Taylor, Chicago IL

    What's the matter? Are they picking on his poor little sun, still? Let's not forget the lies created by Jr's buddies as to the reason we went to Iraq in the first place. bin laden started a fight with the U.S., so what do we do? We go after Saddam. Jr. made his mistakes, the entire world knows, and he refuses to acknowledge it. How about Jr. admit he's a horrid leader and step down (and take his party with him). We need a leader who looks out for the best interest of the American people, not someone who has his daddy (another failed leader) trying to fight his battles.

    November 9, 2007 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  23. Jason, Reno, NV.

    The only thing preventing people from focusing on Bush 41 as the lackluster one-term debacle he was is the fact that his son is doing such a horrible job now.

    November 9, 2007 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  24. Jenn, Washington D.C.

    I am curious to know how many of those who have posted thus far have ever lived in a foreign country; served in the military, law enforcement, or some form of civil service that actually holds you accountable beyond the hours you spend griping at the water cooler; or have any idea how truly fortunate our country is. If people like you were making decisions, all of your children would not only be speaking a different language, but they may very well be at risk of being killed by a suicide bomber Saturday afternoon while shopping at the mall. Please seek some perspective. Learn your world by varying your sources, and don't swallow every five second sound bite that contains enough basic vocabulary for you to "kind of get it". Have a great weekend with your borrowed DVD's, chain restaurant take-out, and perpetual state of home improvement and material acquisition. I can assure you (despite your misperceptions and in some cases, just plain rottenness), there are a good many Americans now, as our veterans did before, that are protecting human freedoms–especially yours– so you don't have to worry about it. Consider yourself lucky and use some critical thinking skills before you speak. Happy Veteran's Day. Now roger up or pipe down.

    November 9, 2007 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  25. Guido, Charleston, South Carolina

    Another example of a parent who is an "enabler"

    November 9, 2007 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
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