It wasn’t long ago that former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter, Liz, were out flogging their book, Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America, in which they lauded the inherent greatness of America while brutally criticizing President Obama and his policies.
Cheney, who served two terms as George W. Bush’s vice president, had as much influence as anyone in shaping post-9/11 foreign policy and war strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq. He accused Obama of forfeiting America’s role as leader of the free world and significantly diminishing U.S. power just as the threat of terrorism from ISIS and others is rapidly growing around the globe.
Bush has always praised his former vice president, despite Cheney’s well-documented mistakes in helping to thrust the U.S. into a senseless war in Iraq based on faulty intelligence and his unwavering support of the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques on enemy combatants and terrorism suspects. What few people knew until now is that Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, had long harbored deep grievances against Cheney and other cabinet members during his son’s eight-year administration.
Peter Baker of The New York Times obtained an advanced copy a new biography of the elder Bush by John Meacham, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush. In it, Bush said that Cheney had built “his own empire” and exercised too much “hardline” influence in pressing for the use of force around the world. W’s father chided his son for giving Cheney and Rumsfeld too much free reign after the 9/11 attacks, although he continued to praise his son’s overall performance as president.
He also criticized Bush II for being at times “too bellicose in his language.”
The senior Bush, the 41st president, waged the first Gulf War against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein between August 1990 and February 1991. While the U.S. and its allies prevailed in the war, Bush wisely chose not to invade and occupy Iraq. He called Rumsfeld, an unabashed champion of the subsequent invasion of Iraq, “an arrogant fellow” who “served the president badly.” But he reserved his toughest criticism for Cheney, who in many ways was the driving force behind U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq that ultimately resulted in 5,269 combat deaths, many more seriously wounded military personnel, and an estimated $1.5 trillion of defense spending since 2001.
Here are a few of the more dramatic quotes by George H.W. Bush in Meacham’s book:
- “He had his own empire there and marched to his own drummer,” the senior Bush said of Cheney. “It just showed me that you cannot do it that way. The president should not have that worry.”
- “He just became very hardline and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with.”
- “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.”
- “I’ve concluded that Lynne Cheney is a lot of the eminence grise here – iron-ass, tough as nails, driving.”
- “The big mistake that was made was letting Cheney bring in kind of his own State Department.”
- “I think they overdid that [defense strategy]. But it’s not Cheney’s fault. It’s the president’s fault.”
In a post-script to The New York Times report, George W. Bush stuck up both Cheney and Rumsfeld. “I am proud to have served with Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld,” he said in a statement. “I am grateful to both men for their good advice, selfless service to our country, and friendship.”