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. Bart Brown, Clinton, CT

    While Poppy is heartbroken about his son's putative pain, tens of thousands of American fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, friends and family have had THEIR hearts ripped apart by the meat grinder in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then, of course, there are the HUNDREDS of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans ripped apart, physically and spiritually, by our gift of "democracy." There's no more democracy in the Middle East today than there was before we toppled the genius Reagan's "trusted ally" Sammy Hussein, and there will be even less after we leave.

    What has been gained? The bitter enmity of the entire Islamic world, and about 98% of the rest of the world in the bargain. Where is our "most valuable ally" Saudi Arabia, the richest and most powerful country in the region? Waiting for America to finish weakening Iraq - and Iran, if the Conservatives get their way - so THEY can control the entire "strategic reserves" OUR soldiers are dying for. That outcome is most definitely in the Bush family's interest, but is it in AMERICA'S national interest? The two are NOT synonymous.

    Now our other "staunch ally in the war against terror," Pervez Musharraf, who has taken billions in US aid and STILL knowingly harbors murderers encamped within Pakistan's borders, has decided "democracy" isn't for HIM, either. Bush won't even rap his knuckles.

    It's WAY past high time for impeachment, but better late than never. Sadly, it won't bring our sons and daughters back. It *might* restore some respect for OUR tattered democracy, though.

    November 9, 2007 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  2. M Carry

    Bush 41 ....Tell SONNY BOY to RESIGN IMMEDIATELY !!!

    November 9, 2007 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  3. Steve Mantua, NJ

    Did someone actually say that Bush is going to bring a stable democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan? Afghanistan is already being taken back over by the remnants of the Taliban regime and were still there! Iraq will likely never see a stable democracy and will have to settle for an alternative form of government. Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine, Pakistan, and Syria have all been brought into the fold of war. Turkey is ready to invade northern Iraq to take on the Kurd's and Iran is out of control. Bush's actions have thrown the region into chaos and nobody should kid themself otherwise!

    November 9, 2007 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  4. Tombo, B'ham, AL

    Hey Ca Native do you have your head in a toilet water boarding? Where exactly is the democracy you scream about. Why are you not in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting in the name of your Herr Fuhrer George W. Bush?

    November 9, 2007 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  5. K.

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

    RIGHT ON!!! No need to look for more evidence the pipeline is rich and flowing with it!

    November 9, 2007 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  6. Aaron, San Diego, CA

    While I am ready to have our soldier’s home, I have not changed my stance since 2001. Go after and stop the terrorists; whatever the costs may be. I remember most of the country supporting the president in 2001 & 2002. When the costs have risen too high (what is perceived as too high by fair weather fans), the weak and feeble need to blame someone. Stick to the core goal and back the president. He is doing a job few would be able to handle. God bless President Bush and his Former President Bush.

    November 9, 2007 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  7. george vanicek ft. bragg ca

    Bush 41 remember Panama? The Dictator you put in power that enslaved those inocent people!
    Well I do, I was there that night watching over 500 women and children burn to death just like 9/11. The next day stuffing body bags,throwing them on garbage trucks, digging trenches and covering them up before the press could report it. Just to save you and Chenneys as# from international procecution!Your a foul example of a leader and so is your son and his cronies.If the Bush mafia is doing Gods work as they say they are, they're definatly praying to the wrong God.

    November 9, 2007 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  8. WGraham, Chicago, IL

    As a Dad, I can empathize with Bush 41. Like his Dad, Bush 43 has strong convictions and morals, and pursues policy based on what is best for America in the long run. History will eventually record that his resistance to terrorism and the push toward democracy were the right choices. If a Democrat gets elected in '08, it will become clear again, as it was with Clinton, that a weak US will become an easy target. Then the efforts in Iraq and Afganistan will be dwarfed by the scale of world conflict needed to destroy islamo-facism.

    November 9, 2007 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  9. Stephen, Surrey, BC, Canada

    READ MY LIPS: Bush 43 is a pinhead. My friends to the south, what happened? You used to elect Lincolns, Roosevelts,Kennedys, Reagans, and Clintons...not all of whom you may have agreed with all the time, but certainly people in whom you could have confidence in leading your country OUT of the abyss in times of turmoil. Now you've got a dufus who wants to lead you INTO one abyss after another...and the guy's so stupid he probably couldn't even spell abyss. Maybe he can spell "war criminal", as that will be his place in history.

    November 9, 2007 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  10. Tim, Charleston, S.C.

    Sorry George 41. It must be hard to realize your namesake is an utter failure. But you'll get by. You've got your multi-millions and can insulate yourself from the peon-middle class who must pay for your son's stupidity. Too bad you can't buy his way out of this one.

    November 9, 2007 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  11. Jim
    This video explains it all!

    November 9, 2007 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  12. Jeff from Jersey

    Hey George H.,your idiot son,George WORST thinks he's finishing your war for you!You're the fool that taught him that there was glory to be had in war.

    I see a thousand points of light and they are all pointing at your son.They are the souls of the most recent children that your murderous son is responsible for.

    Sadaam was small potatoes in the business of killing people.Your son has already cracked the top ten killer of all-time!If he picks up the pace it's still possible for him to catch Hitler for number 2 without the use of nuclear weapons but he's going to have to use nukes to catch Stalin!

    Al Qaeda wanted nothing to do with Iraq when Sadaam was still alive.Your criminal son has turned Iraq into a terrorist's dream come true.That little idiot son of your's has made the world an infintitely more dangerous place!

    You shouldn't worry about the criticism nincompoop is getting.He should be EXECUTED for war crimes and treason for the crimes he's committed including using our constitution for toilet paper!


    November 9, 2007 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  13. Bill W, Coatesville, PA

    Bush 41 wasn't the best president, either, so he should shut up. He put a tax on Social Security and then literally used the same pen to sign in one of the biggest capital gains tax cuts in US history for the wealthiest Americans.
    Old people vote, and that's why he was a one-term president. He also did go to war, too, if you remember, over oil, but stopped short of going into Baghdad. The Apple certainly didn't fall far from the tree.

    November 9, 2007 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  14. Will , Portland, OR

    Another example of a parent who is an "enabler"
    Posted By Guido, Charleston, South Carolina : November 9, 2007 5:01 pm

    That pretty much sums up the article!

    As far as Clinton goes, I'd rather have some guy make a stupid choice with a women while in office then some guy make a stupid choice with a war.

    Plus, in regards to the wire-tapping, Bush as also broken the law; which makes them about even on 1 account, I guess.

    November 9, 2007 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  15. Michael, Houston, Tx

    Mr President (41)

    You are a good man, and had a solid analytical mind. You also wish to protect your child, all admirable traits.

    Your son however is not the man you are. Your son is the POTUS, and as such he needs to take his punches like the most powerful man on the planet should. Unfortunately his decisions and those he allowed his much to powerful VP and advisors to make, have seriously weakened our position in the world. It has also allowed potential enemies to gain power and make inroads in places we have abandoned diplomatically. We are not seen as the shining beacon as we used to be, and our "friends" in China, Russia and other places are using their new found wealth, and our weakened state to forge alliances that may come back to haunt us and our children in the next two decades.

    Your son, 43, will be recorded and regarded as one of the weakest and worst presidents we have ever had. Sorry but that will be the truth, and hopefully it will be a lesson to us in future elections. Hopefully too, the nxt president will be able to repair the damage of the last 8 years and restore our place on the world stage.

    Good luck America!

    November 9, 2007 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  16. Kyle, Georgetown, Ky

    President Bush has recieved alot of attention he doesnt deserve. The media trashes him at every chance they get. It isnt fair but its life. President Bush is a good man with whom I have alot of trust in. I am proud of the President we have today. I will miss him when he is out of office. To those who say that Iraq is better off with Saddam in power are out of touch with reality. Countless people were slaughtered at the hands of that man. Our invasion of Iraq uncovered hundreds of mass graves. I am sure there are more! Thank you President Bush for getting rid of this hitler

    November 9, 2007 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  17. Rod, Winter Springs, FL

    It's sad to see all the mean spirited remarks about Bush 43 and his father's concern for him. They simply hate the fact that Bush 43 acted with conviction, as did Wilson, Roosevelt, Joghson, and Reagan in previous military engagements.

    If they truly do not believe that democracy can take hold through our sacrifice and commitment to defend our principles, how can they deny the outcome of history. Europe. Japan, South Korea, Kuwait, & Vietnam all seem to be improved "westernized economies" because of our efforts during wars that the U.S. didn't initiate. And the U.S. contributed to the reconstruction that took years to be repaid.

    I wish all of the critics could live in a socialist, facist regime like Somalia, North Korea, or Venezuela for a few years. Then they would realize how difficult the President's job is to defend the U.S., our allies, and our interests. They wouldn't have cable TV or internet to spew their venom, but they would live in real fear for their lives, and probably well below our current poverty standards here in the U.S.

    Imagine if all their remarks had their name in place of Bush 43? The man has changed the world in a positive way, and recent leadership changes in Germany, Canada, and France show the pendulum is finally swinging in the conservative direction. Socialist agendas are proving their shortcomings, but at least those peoples were free to vote for positive change, unlike the people in Iraq & Afghanistan.

    November 9, 2007 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  18. M. Lieberman Miami Beach, Fl.

    43 as president of America lied to take America into an illegal war. By 41 asking if we would like to have Saddam back, I would say "YES." I would not have to see over 30,000 seriously wounded Americans, almost 4,000 dead Americans, America three trillion dollars more in national debt and hundreds of thousands of poor Iraqi's dead, and no telling how many seriously wounded and 43 created more terrorism worldwide. 41 thinks that I forgot that he killed over 4000 Panamians and over 200 U.S. soldiers died while illegally invading Panama to get General Noriega. Noriega in all probablility was in the drug business, but Bush was his partner as sure as God made little apples. 41 & 43 are war criminals as far as I'm concerned.

    November 9, 2007 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  19. Frank Prieto Palmdale, CA

    NOW HE FEELS THE PAIN, and I hope the pain keeps growing.

    November 9, 2007 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  20. Alexander Alabiso, Seattle, WA

    CNN reports "Human rights groups believe about 300,000 people were killed during Saddam's 24-year rule, which ended when U.S.-led forces toppled his regime in 2003."

    CNN also reports " War has wiped out about 655,000 Iraqis or more than 500 people a day since the U.S.-led invasion"

    Hmmm ... Saddam takes 24 years to kill 300,000 Iraq's. We enable the killing of 650,000 of them in just 3.5 years.

    To answer 41 ... should we have left Saddam in place? YES, till someone more competent than 43 came along ....

    November 9, 2007 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  21. P Schutt, Corning, NY

    Poor George...Bullpuckey! I don't feel sorry for either of them. George 41 never had to worry about George 43 dying in a military conflict because he had the power to protect and shield him from duty unlike the Mothers and Fathers of the lower and middleclass wage earners whose sons are serving today. Georgie 43 has always been able to voice his opinion and orders from a safe distance without even thinking about the personal sacrifice our troops are making as he plays "soldier". He is a pathetic excuse for a man and an even worse one for President. I cringe everytime I hear him speak because he lacks sincerity, is flippant and arrogant. The hypocritical conservatives wasted a lot of our time and money digging into Bill Clinton's personal life in an effort to impeach him, asserting it was in the best interest of the USA and meanwhile the current congress is investigating important issues like Bush lying to congess and the citizens of the United States about WMDs. I'm sorry, but what Clinton did in the bedroom was none of our business and therefore was a waste of resources -unlike – Bush lying about WMDS and other reasons for people to go to war and die in part because of his lack of intelligence and refusing to supply our troops with the neccessary resources and back-up they needed to be successful and survive. It's almost like he's pretending with GIJoes and he can do a do over. He has detached himself from his own soldier's suffering and deaths. Poor must be a difficult burdon for him being such an idiot while men of integrity lose their lives and families because because he won't admit he screwed up. Frankly, I haven't seen one New Yorker or American's life experience improve as a result of "HIS" war on terrorism, instead the opposite is true. I hope we all survive to see him impeached or voted out. That would be an effective use of time.

    November 9, 2007 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  22. Sue, San Jose, CA

    Bush 41 should be ashamed of his monster son. 43 said he was a compassionate conservative and he turned out to be neither. The first president with a MBA has the biggest deficits ever!! He has ruined the lives of thousands of soldiers and veterans not to mention the Iraqis dying for this clueless bozo's beliefs and has no sympathy for dissent.

    November 9, 2007 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  23. GTH Lewiston Idaho

    Yeah, the middle east was more stable when Saddam was gassing his own people, warring with Iran and invading Kuwait. Some of folks are intellectually lazy or just plain dumb. G.W. did the right thing, time will prove this out.

    November 9, 2007 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  24. Mikel Covey, Salt Lake City, Utah

    Yes Mr. President, nearly everyone but you would dearly love to go "back to the status quo" in Iraq. If only we could. And while you're feeling sorry for your son, what about the thousands of needless deaths your deluded son is responsible for? Where's your empathy for them?

    Mikel, Salt Lake City, UT

    November 9, 2007 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  25. Scott, St. Louis, MO

    Stop your whining, GHWB. It all comes with public service. Maybe your son should go back to ruining professional sports teams or driving businesses into the ground.

    November 9, 2007 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22