After having largely maintained a "respectful silence" about his son George W. Bush's presidency, in a new biography by Jon Meacham George HW Bush accuses "hardline" Dick Cheney and "arrogant" Donald Rumsfeld of having "hurt" his son's legacy in their handling of 9/11.
In Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey Of George Herbert Walker Bush Meacham quotes the former president disparaging Bush's two closest advisers. Regarding former Vice President Cheney, the senior Bush told Meacham that he'd turned into an "iron-ass."
“I don’t know, he just became very hardline and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with," said Bush about his own former secretary of defense. "The reaction [to 9/11], what to do about the Middle East. 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 ..."
Though he ultimately defended his son, saying "he did this best," he did fault him for allowing Cheney to have too much power, saying he built "kind of his own state department."
"He had his own empire there and marched to his own drummer," said Bush. "It just showed me that you cannot do it that way. The President should not have that worry."
He also suggested Cheney (as well as his own son) was guilty of using overly "hot rhetoric" at times that "doesn’t necessarily solve the diplomatic problem." As an example, he cited his son's "axis of evil" 2002 state of the union speech.
As for former Sec. of State Rumsfeld, Bush Sr. said described him as "an arrogant fellow."
"I don’t like what he did, and I think it hurt the president," said Bush, blasting him as well for being overly aggressive. "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."
When asked for comment from Fox News, Cheney shrugged off Bush Sr's criticism, saying he took the "iron-ass" remark as a compliment.
"I took it as a mark of pride," said Cheney. "The attack on 9/11 was worse than Pearl Harbor, in terms of the number people killed, and the amount of damage done. I think a lot of people believed then, and still believe to this day that I was aggressive in defending, in carrying out what I thought were the right policies."
One point that did frustrate the former vice president, however, was Bush Sr's claim that Cheney's wife and daughter had acted as "eminence grises," quietly egging him on to be more aggressive.
"It’s his view, perhaps, of what happened, but my family was not conspiring to somehow turn me into a tougher, more hard-nosed individual," said Cheney, adding, "I got there all by myself."
Praising the book as "fascinating," Cheney said he was "proud to be a part of it."
George W Bush has dismissed his father's apparent blame-shifting, saying, "I made the decisions. This was my philosophy." In a statement Thursday, he praised both Cheney and Rumsfield.
"I am proud to have served with Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld," said Bush Jr. "Dick Cheney did a superb job as Vice President, and I was fortunate to have him by my side throughout my presidency. Don Rumsfeld ably led the Pentagon and was an effective Secretary of Defense. I am grateful to both men for their good advice, selfless service to our country, and friendship."