George W. Bush Sticks Up for Cheney and Rumsfeld After Dad Rips Them as 'Iron-Ass' and 'Arrogant'

In a new biography, former President George H.W. Bush chastises former Vice President Dick Cheney's for his combative language after the 2001 terror attacks and calls former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "an arrogant fellow."

by Liz Fields
Nov 5 2015, 4:50pm

Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP

George W. Bush has said he was "proud" to serve alongside top aides Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld after his father and former President George H.W. Bush ripped into both men for being "iron-ass" and "arrogant" during his son's time in the White House.

"I am proud to have served with Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld," George W. Bush said, according to a statement obtained by the Washington Post. "Dick Cheney did a superb job as Vice President, and I was fortunate to have him by my side throughout my presidency. Don Rumsfeld 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."

The statement came Thursday morning after the patriarch of the Bush dynasty, George H.W. Bush, hit out at top members of his eldest son's administration during the 9/11 era. The withering commentary in the former president's biography comes as Bush's youngest son and 2016 presidential hopeful contends with ongoing flak over his older brother's policies and the decision to invade Iraq.

In the new book Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President chastised former Vice President Dick Cheney's for his combative language during the 2001 terror attacks. He also called his son's two-term Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "an arrogant fellow."

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The elder Bush is in the unique position of having also worked with Cheney, who served as his defense secretary between 1989 and 1993, back when Bush was Commander-in-Chief. But Bush senior told biographer Jon Meacham that while serving as his son's no. 2, Cheney "became very hard-line and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with."

"The reaction [to 9/11], what to do about the Middle East. Just iron-ass," he said. "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."

"Hot rhetoric is pretty easy to get headlines, but it doesn't necessarily solve the diplomatic problem," Bush added.

Cheney took the "iron-ass" comment in his stride, telling Fox News he takes it "as a mark of pride," while defending his handling of the terror attacks in 2001 that killed nearly 3,000 people.

"The attack on 9/11 was worse than Pearl Harbor, in terms of the number people killed, and the amount of damage done," Cheney said. "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."

As for Rumsfeld, whom Bush senior also worked with during Gerald R. Ford's administration, the 41st president maintained an even more scornful review, saying the former defense secretary possessed "a lack of humility, a lack of seeing what the other guy thinks."

"I don't like what he did, and I think it hurt the president," said Bush.

The former defense secretary has not spoken publicly about the critique, or being labeled by Bush as "an arrogant fellow and self-assured, swagger."

But Bush also sung his son's praises in the biography, which is set to be released next week. He stood by George W. Bush's war in Iraq, saying "he did his best," while shirking away from comparisons between that conflict and the first Gulf War led by his own administration in the early 1990s, during which Cheney was defense secretary.

"Different wars, different reasons," he said, adding that that Saddam Hussein's capture erased "a lot of brutality and nastiness and awfulness," and was one of America's "proud moments."

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The book is a largely flattering portrait of Bush, now 91, compiled from interviews and snippets of audio from dictated diaries the former president kept on mini-cassette recorders. It also includes excerpts from Barbara Bush's diaries and interviews with the former first lady.

Its release next week comes as Bush's youngest son, Jeb, seeks to continue the family's dynastic leadership in 2016. When Jeb Bush first announced his presidential aspirations, the former Florida governor initially shied away from his family roots.

"Jeb is different than George, and Jeb is who he is," Jeb Bush told CNN at the time of his campaign announcement in June. "My life story is different."

But recently, as the candidate's campaign has hit troubled times, including tanking poll numbers and recent deep cuts to payroll and staff, Bush has reframed his campaign and turned to his older brother for a political boost at donor events and appearances.

In the book, George H. W. Bush also reveals that current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump wanted to run on his ticket in 1988, and that Jeb Bush was among some Republicans urging him to drop Dan Quayle as his running mate in the 1992 elections. Former Vice President Quayle has been an active supporter of Jeb Bush's run for the White House, and co-hosted a super PAC fundraiser for him in Arizona.