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. A.Thomas, new york, NY

    Mr. Bush 41:

    Your son, Bush 43, made a big error in judgement in invading Iraq and topping Hussein. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Iraq people were killed, and thiusands of american people were also killed.

    Other than lives lost and millions of Iraq people displaced, america has unnecessarily spent over $800 billion in a war that goes nowhere. The money could have been better used for the american education, health care, and internal security.

    Bush 43 should not invade and attack another country simply he does not like the regime. Otherwise, he would also have invaded Iran, Korea and China.

    You should be painful for your son's mistake, as this will haunt him and yours for years after he leaves the white house.

    November 9, 2007 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  2. Not Myname, Seattle, WA

    It's not just going into Iraq that we criticize Bush for. Lying to the American public to get there is an extremely serious offense.

    He also cut off debate by accusing anyone with opposing views of being unpatriotic.

    The party isn't innocent either. The administration told lies that no one in their right mind would believe, but the party faithful agreed to believe in the name of unity.

    This administration has been a disgrace, and clueless to that fact. They've disgraced the office and the American political system for years to come.

    At this point, by any measure, they've done more damage to America than any terrorist has. And anyone who defends this administration loses credibility by doing so.

    Sorry about Bush 1. He's a good man. But the son is not the father.

    November 9, 2007 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |

    this country would be so much better with out all the Liberals. They do not understand what it means to be united. Horrible acts were done to this country and all the republicans back Bush. We should have come into the war stronger inoreder to already be done and out of it but of course we can not because he has to please all the crazy left wingers make a good public apperance to them. Its time to let loose in Iraq and give them what they deserve. I wish we could send some libs over because if they had any brain....they'd be republican.

    November 9, 2007 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  4. Steve, St Joseph, MI

    Well, frankly I would like to go back much further then Saddam, and remove Bush 43 from the presidency.

    November 9, 2007 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  5. beat_read

    Sociopath 41,

    Your sociopath OFFspring following in your footsteps and those of your monster wife remains responsible for unspeakable carnage, destruction, and evil.

    Perhaps had you spent more time with the little priyk when he was still developing as a child, he would not have developed such completely unadulterated insensitivity to humanity and fellow human beings, so maybe you're at least partially responsible for the monster you brought into the world.

    Beyond that, you're as responsible NOW for defending the monster's narcissism and evil still operating out-of-control and no end in sight, so you are, yourself, Emperor 41, very nearly as responsible for the tragedies he is still causing the world and its humblest inhabitants.

    Get a life! And try not to destroy it like the ones you've stolen from the world.

    November 9, 2007 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  6. sally New Jersey

    Bush Sr. should be ashamed of himself. He refuses to see how his incompetent and idiot son is ruining this country. We are the victims, not you, Papa Bush! You should be crying for us!

    November 9, 2007 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  7. Mark C, Asheville NC

    "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?"

    Yes, yes and yes. No contest.

    November 9, 2007 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  8. Thomas, Baton Rouge, LA

    His son is a big boy. Theoretically.
    He made his own bed.

    November 9, 2007 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  9. IL Native

    BE proud of your son, Sir. Many of us are!
    Posted By Ca Native

    It's scary to think there are really people out there like you.

    November 9, 2007 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  10. Neil Williamson

    actually, i feel that the mideast would be MUCH more stable if his "offspring" would have left sleeping dogs lie. I am sure I am not alone in my viewpoint.

    November 9, 2007 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    I think now less people would have suffered and died in Iraq if Saddam was still there.

    November 9, 2007 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  12. sally

    When I saw the headline "lay off my son" I was hoping it meantget rid of him like when the rest of us get layed off. Alas, it is not to be.

    November 9, 2007 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  13. TomK

    No doubt Saddam is very bad. And deserves a licking from Bush 41 and coalition after Kuwait. But sorry old man, your son is worse than Saddam. The consequences of his actions far far exceeded the mess and damage Saddam has done to Iraq, the region, and the USA. Open your eyes and mind and see without family attachment. And look, I'm no Dem/Rep, lib nor neocon. Just an impartial historian.

    November 9, 2007 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  14. Jack, L.A.

    Barbara Bush: "George is an idiot." And she wasn't talking about her husband.

    November 9, 2007 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  15. Rebecca; Texas

    Overall, I personally believe Bush to be a great president. No one is perfect, but in the face of crisis and terror, Bush has stood strong.

    The ignorant hick here isn't those of us who support our country as well as our president. It think maybe those of you who would stoop to name calling, believing that this is a PC world, should step back from your rose colored glasses and look outside. It's not. The world is not a beautiful place. It is plagued with atrocities. Children are being abandoned in all countries, not just Iraq. Bush did what he believed to be the right thing to do. Have you all forgotten that Saddam threw hoards of people into a giant shredder? You really think that was better. You can't save a country overnight. It takes time and dedication; something I see, most of you do not have.

    Things may have not turned out the way intended, but I commend Bush on taking a stand and saying we will not tolerate terrorism.

    Kudos, to both President Bush's.

    November 9, 2007 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  16. Loren Los Angeles Ca

    I voted for junior in 2000 and if there ever was a vote I wish I could take back this is it. He has lowered taxes on the upper top class and spent us into oblivion ruining many retirements, I was counting on at least 1/3 of my pension from soc.sec. And he is more than willing to spill American sons and daughters blood as long as it is not his kids, nieces, nephews or Cheney's, both are draft dodgers. When I was in the service during Viet Nam the reservists who failed to show were put on active duty> you can see how that worked. The Bushes have been a curse on our nation.I am a true Republican who will vote for Hillary if Ron Paul does not receive the nomination, he is a true conservative.

    November 9, 2007 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  17. Bill, Streamwood, IL

    Sounds to me like Bush 41 watches something other than that "Fair and Balanced" network.

    During his long and distinguished political career Bush 41 saw how bad things could be for a president who was out of his league. Ya think he would have warned W before he became Bush 43? If he did, W didn't pay attention, which is, as we all know from experience, his way of doing things.

    As far as Bush 41's comments about Saddam Hussein; Saddam running Iraq is a better choice than Achmadinejad running Iran and exporting his brand of terrorism all over the place. At least Saddam mostly terrorized Iraq itself.

    But that is hindsight and who could have predicted beforehand what would have happened should Saddam be taken out? I mean besides Tom Clancy back in 1996.

    November 9, 2007 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  18. Kaela, VA Beach, VA

    Who cares....get over it and realize that your son screwed up BIG TIME and we wouldn't be in the predicament that we are if Hussein hadn't threatened the elder Bush in the first place. We should have been going after the REAL threat....OSAMA BIN LADEN. HELLO...REMEMBER HIM?

    November 9, 2007 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  19. D. Lustig - New York, NY

    Lay off his son??? Bush 43 is the worst president ever who has us embroiled in a futile war which he got us into under false pretenses. He has taken a wrecking ball to our national prestige, our economy and our moral fabric. If anything, we have not been nearly tough enough. History will judge him even more harshly.

    November 9, 2007 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  20. john wheeling, wv

    did I read this correctly????

    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!

    First, many are proud??? Isn't his approval raing around 30%? That one in three....not MANY!!!

    Iraq is a mess....due mostly to the ignorance, incompetence, and stuuborn-ness of "43." While Mr.Clinton was cleaning up from 12 years of republicans, and making us look good in the world, he still takes heat from ignorant Americans who are "proud" (I just cab't get past that) of King George. Our dollar is all but worthless; soldiers go into battle wit no, or defective armor; the rules keep changing for defining an objective in Iraq and Afgah.; and while the wealthy get fatter, the middle class are losing their homes and jobs. Proud....??? "43" disgusts me and I for the last eight years I have been embarrased to be an American. "41," maybe you should rethink your thoughts of that idiot son of yours....the one that can't speak correctly (and why is he the only one in your family with a southern accent?), the same one that mutters offensive language while his mouth is full at a state dinner, and said that Mandela is dead!!! The same disgusting "43" that let New Orleans fall apart. Wow, you Bush people make my dysfunctional family look kinda' good! "43" will be in hell along with all the other lying, cheating, arrogant politicians (Tom De Lay too) as christian as he wants teh world to believe.....he's just an idiot!

    November 9, 2007 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  21. Alan, Houston, Texas

    Isn't Bush 43 a little old to have his daddy fight his battles for him? I left that behind with the sandbox, Shrubby.

    November 9, 2007 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  22. Rurik, St. Paul, MN

    I'd feel bad too if my idiot son was dubbed WORST PRESIDENT EVER. But when said idiot was responsible for dragging the entire country into a cesspool war on false information, destroying the middle class, transforming a budget surplus into an astronomical debt and basing his presidency on cronyism and corruption, well, sir, it's kind of hard to ignore all of that and have any shred of respect for your idiot son.

    November 9, 2007 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  23. Mark Chattanooga, TN

    Let there be no mistake, George W. Bush knows more of the seriousness of the threat to our country than will ever br revealed. What happens if Iran gets nukes, you think they will keep them to themselves? It will be too late when a suitcase nuke goes off in the middle of Times Square!!

    November 9, 2007 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  24. David, Winter Garden, Florida

    What a farce. If he didn't want to hear these things said about his son, then he should have told him NOT to run for President. He should have told him NOT to decalre "mission accomplished" what was it, two years ago, three years ago?

    You know what I like the best about it being November 2007? Less than a year and NO MORE BUSH!!!!!!!

    November 9, 2007 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  25. Paula, Mobile, AL

    Hey "Ca Native" if you're so proud of 41 and 43, then why not leave your name? As for 41, if you don't like the criticism against your inept son, then you'd better crawl into some deep pit because this country is finally waking up.

    November 9, 2007 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
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