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Hullabaloo


Thursday, November 05, 2015

 
A little more than kin, and less than kind

by digby

I have a friend who used to comment all the time about how difficult it must have been for Poppy Bush to see his son destroy the family legacy. I always replied that blood was thicker than water and that he was probably all in on whatever Junior wanted to do.

It looks as though my friend was right. Poppy is 91 and he's letting it all hang out --- just as son Jeb is trying desperately to gain some traction on the presidential trail. What a family. Via The Atlantic:
[I]n a new biography, former President George H.W. Bush tells Jon Meacham just what he thinks about Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld’s work in his son’s administration, as reported by Fox News and The New York Times.

“He just became very hard-line and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with,” the elder Bush said of the man who served as his secretary of defense. “Just iron-ass. His seeming knuckling under to the real hard-charging guys who want to fight about everything, use force to get our way in the Middle East.” He said Cheney built “his own empire.”

“I’ve concluded that Lynne Cheney is a lot of the eminence grise here—iron-ass, tough as nails, driving,” George H.W. Bush said. (One takeaway from the book is Bush’s love of the phrase “iron-ass,” which seems at once like a dated Yankee descriptor and also delightfully vivid.)


He was even harsher about Rumsfeld, who he deemed an “arrogant fellow.”

“I think he served the president badly,” Bush said. “I don’t like what he did, and I think it hurt the president having his iron-ass view of everything. I’ve never been that close to him anyway. There’s a lack of humility, a lack of seeing what the other guy thinks. He’s more kick ass and take names, take numbers. I think he paid a price for that.”

Bush—or 41, as the family calls him, in contrast to his son, 43—doesn’t let George W. Bush off the hook entirely.

“The big mistake that was made was letting Cheney bring in kind of his own State Department,” he said. “I think they overdid that. But it’s not Cheney’s fault. It’s the president’s fault.” He also told Meacham, “I do worry about some of the rhetoric that was out there—some of it his, maybe, and some of it the people around him.”

The scathing remarks may be explicitly about what happened between 2001 and 2009, but they’re rooted in much longer disagreements and feuds, running back some four decades.
The article goes on to discuss the longstanding rivalry between Rumsfeld and Bush Sr and it's really interesting. Junior choosing his daddy's great rival was something of a slap in the face. And although Cheney and Poppy got along somewhat better they weren't exactly close.
The idea that George W. Bush’s foreign policy reflected a fundamental shift in worldview from his father’s approach is not a new one. It was made in 2003, and my colleague Conor Friedersdorf argued in October that Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign was foundering in part because by aligning himself with his brother, he had taken up the wrong George Bush’s worldview. One reason for that shift, surely, was that George W. Bush’s administration was heavily influenced by Rumsfeld and Cheney, two men who had long had a harsher and more aggressive approach to the world than George H.W. Bush. What do Bush 41’s comments to Meacham indicate, inside this context?

For one, the book shows that Bush père really did have substantive disagreements with much of his son’s conduct of foreign policy. (He also singled out one 2002 speech for criticism: “You go back to the ‘axis of evil’ and these things and I think that might be historically proved to be not benefiting anything.”) It isn’t quite right to say that Bush 41 is letting his son off the hook; after all, he told Meacham, “The buck stops there.” It’s also true, however, that the harshest words are reserved for Rumsfeld and Cheney.

This isn't really new either. There was a tremendous amount of ink spilled in the early years of the Bush 43 administration over the "daddy issue." It was always obvious that Junior had some primal need to defy his father.

This reporter thinks Bush Sr's book may be a clever, if byzantine, way to close family ranks since Junior has also been slightly critical of Cheney and Rumsfeld. The idea, I guess, is that they are trying to lay the blame for Junior's epic failure at their feet --- and Poppy gets to settle some old scores in the process.

Maybe. But Occam's Razor says that in the twilight of his life, Bush Sr just wants to put some distance between his son's legacy and his own. And in the process he's making life even more difficult for his other son as the poor guy makes a desultory attempt to redeem the family name.

Did I mention Shakespeare?

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