Donald Rumsfeld fires back at George H.W. Bush's "arrogant" diss -- by calling the ex-president an old fart

The elder Bush blames Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney for America's hawkish turn post 9/11 in new biography

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published November 5, 2015 6:26PM (EST)

Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney             (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Donald Rumsfeld reacted to George H.W. Bush blaming him and Dick Cheney for damaging the nation with their hawkish policies by making a gratuitous swipe at the former president's old age.

Bush Sr. reportedly called Rumsfeld “an arrogant fellow," according to excerpts from a new biography, “Destiny And Power: The American Odyssey Of George Herbert Walker Bush.”

“I don’t like what he did, and I think it hurt the President," the 41st president said of Rumsfeld's impact during his son's presidential tenure.

Responding to Bush's dig today, Rumsfeld -- himself 83 years old -- took a swipe at the elder Bush's age to discredit his newly reported critiques.

“Bush 41 is getting up in years and misjudges Bush 43, who I found made his own decisions," Rumsfeld told NBC News. Bush recently celebrated his 91st birthday:

Of course, the contentious relationship between Bush 41 and Rumsfeld is hardly new. Rumsfeld, a longtime nemesis of Bush, admitted that he was "amazed" when his son asked him to join his administration in his 2011 memoir "Known and Unknown."

"The circumstances surrounding George H.W. Bush's nomination to be director of the CIA is a particularly stubborn chapter of the myth that I had stage-managed Ford's staff reorganization," Rumsfeld wrote of Bush 41.

"I was kind of disappointed in him," he explained during an ABC News interview at the time. "He decided he wanted to leave people with the impression that he didn't want to go to the CIA. And that someone made him go there. And it was probably Rumsfeld or something."

"By repeating the myth instead of setting the record straight, Bush in effect endorsed it," Rumsfeld wrote in his memoir.

For his part, Bush Sr. also admitted to a rocky relationship with Rumsfeld in his new biography. “I’ve never been that close to him anyway,” Bush explained. “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. Rumsfeld was an arrogant fellow.”

Dick Cheney, whom Bush 41 rebuked as the driver behind inflammatory rhetoric like "axis of evil" during his son's presidency, took more kindly to the elder Bush's assessment of his time as vice president. Cheney, himself a Rumsfeld protégé, had served as H.W's secretary of defense.

“It’s his view, perhaps, of what happened, but my family was not conspiring to somehow turn me into a tougher, more hardnosed individual," Cheney told biographer Jon Meacham, reacting to transcripts of Bush's biographical interviews.

"I got there all by myself,” the former vice president insisted.

And as if Jeb Bush's path on the campaign trail wasn't complicated enough, the son and brother of two former presidents walked a tricky line of not throwing his father under the bus and not conceding that his brother was Cheney's and Rumsfeld's puppet while in office.

"My brother is a big boy, his administration was shaped by his thinking, his reaction to the attack on 9/11. I think my dad, like a lot of people that love George [W. Bush], want to try to create a different narrative, perhaps, just because that's natural to do," Jeb Bush told NBC News today.

George H. W. Bush Takes Unexpected Swipes At Cheney, Rumsfeld

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

MORE FROM Sophia Tesfaye

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

9/11 Aol_on Dick Cheney Donald Rumsfeld George H.w. Bush George W. Bush Gop Gop Civil War Jeb Bush