SENIOR VS. JUNIOR….There’s been a

SENIOR VS. JUNIOR….There’s been a ton of blogospheric attention given to today’s London Times article suggesting that George Bush Sr. is critical of his son’s handling of the Iraq situation. The reason is obvious when you skim through the Times story:

Bush Sr warning over unilateral action
The first President Bush has told his son that hopes of peace in the Middle East would be ruined if a war with Iraq were not backed by international unity….The former President’s comments reflect unease among the Bush family….Although not addressed to his son in person, the message, in a speech at Tufts University in Massachusetts, was unmistakeable.

….He said that the key question of how many weapons of mass destruction Iraq held “could be debated”. The case against Saddam was “less clear” than in 1991, when Mr Bush Sr led an international coalition to expel invading Iraqi troops from Kuwait. Objectives were “a little fuzzier today”, he added.

….In an ominous warning for his son, Mr Bush Sr said that he would have been able to achieve nothing if he had jeopardised future relations by ignoring the UN….Also drawing on the lessons of 1991, he said that it was imperative to mend fences with allies immediately, rather than waiting until after a war.

This sounds damning indeed, but click the link and read the whole thing carefully. There are an awful lot of unsupported inferences in the story, aren’t there? And no direct quotes critical of Bush Jr. either. Odd, isn’t it? And note that something else is missing: the date of the speech.

The reason is that Bush Sr. gave this speech two weeks ago. I read it then, along with a similar speech he gave in Iowa, and decided not to blog it because, once you read through it, there isn’t really much news there. Compare the Times treatment to this story written in the Boston Globe the day after the speech by someone who was actually there:

At Tufts, elder Bush defends US Iraq policy
In a speech at Tufts University….former President George H.W. Bush supported his son’s present policy toward Iraq.

….Defending his own stewardship of the 1991 conflict, Bush said the coalition that aligned against Iraq then would have crumbled if the US had decided to march into Baghdad to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

….The former president later drew a distinction between the importance of multilateral action in the Gulf War and today, saying that coalition-building is harder now, when the evidence that Hussein has weapons of mass destruction is ”a little fuzzier” than when Iraq invaded Kuwait. ”Another ingredient we didn’t have [during the Gulf War] was 9/11,” Bush said. ”The United States must do what it can to protect itself and its friends against the use of weapons of mass destruction.”

….The elder Bush said he refrains from giving advice to his son, not wanting to ”complicate his life.” He added that he feels hurt by criticism of his son, who the senior Bush said wants a peaceful resolution of the Iraq crisis as much as anyone. Still, Bush said the United States has more work to do. ”We need to make clear the new world order is not some code for American imperialism, but making freedom and self-determination widely accepted norms,” he said.

The Globe story makes it plainly obvious that Bush Sr.’s speech was extremely supportive of his son. The Times reporter, for some reason, twisted his words about Gulf War I into “unmistakeable” warnings about the current war that seem to be more a product of his imagination than of the speech itself.

Unless there’s some reason to think that the Times reporter based his story on inside knowledge of Bush Sr.’s intentions, it looks like it’s just a case of someone trying a little too hard to spin some news out of nothing. I don’t think there’s much to this story.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation