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. Thomas W. Stevens; Eugene, OR

    Being related to the Bushes, although the relation does go back many generations; I really enjoyed the comment once made by Barbara Bush, "that the Bushes are most surprised by the fact that Jr. became President first". There are other Bushes who are more talented than Jr.. I am afraid Jr. has "stained" the presidency so much so that Jeb will never ever be able to become President because of what his brother Jr. did. When you think about Jr.'s failings; drinking, drugs, military record, all his businesses run into the ground, etc... (the ones we know about), America is truly a country where anyone can become President; but it probably helps if your Dad was also President and well connected to "big money".

    November 9, 2007 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  2. Jeff, DeGraff, Oh

    WAKE UP PEOPLE! Its very simple...Daddy was threatened by Sadam..and little son Georgie had him assassinated... at our governments expense ..! Georgie 43 is far worse than Sadam! 3800+ troops dead! 650,000+ Iraqi dead!..billions of dollars wasted/lost...and this is a good cause?
    Bush 41/43 insult our intelligence and the worlds! I'm sorry to say; They will pay the price for this mess!

    November 9, 2007 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  3. BJ Scherlag, Oklahoma City, OK

    Please send Bush 41 and 43 your report from the Red Crescent on parents abandoning their children in Iraq. Who's responsible?

    November 9, 2007 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  4. Common Sense, Washington, DC

    Yes, the criticism against Bush 43 is more than warranted, but that doesn't mean some of it isn't deserved. History will set the record straight, and our children will be able to read about his presidency without the daily op-ed and draw their own conclusions.

    November 9, 2007 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  5. Kent Smith mpls,MN

    When Bush said "Bring 'em on", "mission accomplished" and "getting Bin Laden isn't real important", he gets what he deserves. He has squandered a budget surplus and turned world wide support for the U.S. after the sept. 11th attacks into deep skepticism about our country from the rest of the globe. Also, didn't he promise to be a uniter not a divider? His low approval numbers are based on his job performance (or lack thereof), not on whether the decisions he makes are popular or not.

    November 9, 2007 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  6. Sandy, St. Paul

    This is just more political pandering. Bush 41 is embarrassed by the pathetic performance of Bush 43, but he's even more embarrassed by the negative press of people realizing what a horrible person and leader 43 has been. I'm far more concerned with America being turned into a third world nation due to Bush 43's ineptitude and ignorant decisions. So when it comes down to hurting poor little Georgies feelings or trying to save our country from his mismanagement, well, let's just say that Impeachment would be the most honorable thing Bush 43 could be given.

    November 9, 2007 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  7. Brent Tiggelaar, Amherst, NY

    This is just ridiculous. His response to the American people being angry about the handling of the war is "What if Hussein was still in power?" Hussein being ousted aside, you cannot use one, debatably, good aspect of the war to justify four years of incompetence. Where are the WMDs?! That was the original purpose of the war. What if Hussein had actually had weapons and said "here they are, come and have them," would he still be in power? Four years ago the sound bite was "Iraq has WMDs." Two years ago it was "We caught Saddam and that is why we went to war." What will the headline be next year? Is it going to be the removal of some faceless terrorist group from Iraq? Will that be Bush 43's new slogan? When does it end?

    November 9, 2007 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  8. Jane Swartz, Las Vegas, NV

    It never ceases to amaze me that Bush43 refers to the fact that he completely disregards public sentiment, as though it were some badge of honor. Does it not occur to him that Presidents are elected to serve the will of the people? This kind of arrogance is regarded by his supporters as honorable, even preferable. If the tables were turned, however, and it were a Democrat president ignoring the clear wishes of the people for the direction of their country, these stubborn fools would cry foul.
    This president is shameful.
    By the way, when did the Republican party change its core values and become so concerned with nation building as its main priority?

    November 9, 2007 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  9. pat

    ca native needs to be shipped off to iraq, what a right wing gullible creep

    November 9, 2007 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  10. Jay, Seattle, WA

    You have to respect a man who does everything in his power to make sure that more than 3000 people who were killed in the 9/11 attacks do not die in vein. If we pulled out right now it would cripple the country that we have fought blood and sweat to help fix and get back on their feet, too keep any other terrorist that think that there will not be a reaction to another attack on U.S. soil. Everyone needs to remember its not them or us winning the war because in war there is never a winner or loser.

    November 9, 2007 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  11. Doug, Crisfield, Maryland

    This is about as illuminating as "Simpson's Mother Declares His Innocence" would be.

    41 was surely a better president and more decent man than 43, but he was no great shakes. He rode to office on the horse of the popularity of the man he'd derided as a voodoo economist, and couldn't sustain the gig.

    November 9, 2007 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  12. Bill Grady, St. Louis MO

    Hmmm…..how does this Dad’s distress about his son compare with the Mothers and Fathers whose sons and daughters are now dead because of George W’s failed war?

    November 9, 2007 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  13. Joe Kansas City, MO

    Does Senior realize his son is an idiot?

    November 9, 2007 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  14. JORGE - MILWAUKEE, WI

    WHY DOESNT CNN DO A POLL TO SEE IF THE PEOPLE WANT TO IMPEACH BUSH AND THE VICE PRESIDENT?

    November 9, 2007 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  15. Gary B. Orange County, CA

    I'm sure the tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi's who lost their homes, livelihood, limbs and family members because W. needed to "one up" Daddy would take issue with 41's point of view.

    November 9, 2007 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  16. Fed Up; Indianapolis, IN

    It's all been said here before, but I have no sympathy for the Bush family. They have unleashed forces that they do not understand and cannot contain, and they have done so with utter disregard for the rule of law or for the reputation of this country.

    They have brought shame upon this country and have threatened the liberty of of every American citizen.

    November 9, 2007 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  17. Ed, PA

    Prez Bush is all grown up and I don't think the first one needs to be stand up for his boy. Something that no one has brought up is; that the current bush is responsible for all his actions, and if he didn't want to be judged by the American people he should have stayed on his ranch, instead of jumping into the American Presidency with eye open and ears wide. I think they both need a little growing up to do, you were and you are the President of the USA, so act like it!!!

    November 9, 2007 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  18. Laurie, Paradise, CA

    Thanks CA Native, for reminding us how utterly ignorant a Bush supporter can really be.

    November 9, 2007 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  19. Bill, Wilmington DE

    You liberal idiots should have a little more respect for your President. Whether you voted for him or not he is the one that was elected.

    I love the way you bash the war but don't present any ideas on how to improve the situation – like all the Dems in congress. I, like most other Americans, don't like the way the war is going. The aftermath of the initial invasion was clearly mis-managed (thanks to rummie). But you can't go back and change it. The only thing we can hope for now is for the Iraqi people to step up and straighten their own country out. I don't remember Bush ever saying we would do it all for them.

    November 9, 2007 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  20. Michael, Los Angeles CA

    You've got to be kidding! 41 feels guilty for having an incompetent, selfish, and alcoholic son with no regard for Life or Country. This family is a disgrace to everything that is American.

    November 9, 2007 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  21. Theresa, Conway, AR

    Why is it that anybody who likes and agrees with Bush 43 is automatically labeled a "hick?" Despite being born and raised in San Francisco, I firmly believe in what this president stands for. To answer the unspoken question, yes, I am educated. I hold an advanced degree in history.

    November 9, 2007 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  22. Grandpa Jim

    Hey Ca Native, can you tell us what "Democracy" Bush has brought to Iraq? Since he's been in office it's been missing here in the USA, I guess Bush and Cheney stole it along with billions of our tax dollars and we could sure use it now! We've got to keep idiots like you from doing any more damage by trying to export what you know nothing about.

    November 9, 2007 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  23. William McClain Los Angeles California

    What Bush Senior needs to remember is that Bush Junior is the President and not just his son. First off he was selected by far brighter Republican's than himself to run for office. He is clearily a puppet with hardly the know how or intillect to hold the office of the Presidency. The world has many dictators. It is not the place of the U.S. government to dedcide which of these it is to take down. The majority of the American people do not support this administration; but we would hardly support another government marching in to take it down. Fact is, this administration is clearily the most corrupt in world history. Sadly most American's are niave to the point of not only recognizing it, but admitting it. Most of us are taught as children to lead by example. And while much of the world is moving forward we have become stuck and lost the respect of the world we once held so dear.

    November 9, 2007 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  24. Dan, Amherst, MA

    You gotta be kidding. Bush and Cheney have cheapened what being an American citizen means. They have manipulated the constitution with their idiotic interpretations of them. More 'terrorists' exist (including terrorists performing acts on our behalf) than before 9/11. Stop being a cry baby Bush 41.

    Speaking of Iraq, when will politicians realize that democracy cannot be forced on a people, the people must embrace it. Not all nations can be democratic, if they were they would not exist with their current borders.

    November 9, 2007 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  25. Nick, Rochester, NY

    Yes, maybe the Middle East would be more secure for US interests if Hussein had not been toppled. But the same goes for the Shah of Iran, Batista in Cuba, and Somoza in Nicaragua. Would the Left agree we should have intervened to stop their fall?

    November 9, 2007 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
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