Unfiltered George H.W. Bush calls Mike Dukakis a ‘midget nerd,’ rips Cheney

Former US President George H.W. Bush in his office in 2012.
Former US President George H.W. Bush in his office in 2012. –Larry W. Smith / EPA

Dick Cheney? “Just iron-ass.’’

Donald Rumsfeld? “An arrogant fellow.’’

Michael Dukakis? “A little midget nerd.’’

Those are just a few of the many unfiltered, critical comments made by George H.W. Bush in a new biography of the 91-year-old former president, The New York Times writes.

Titled Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush and written by Jon Meacham, the biography relies on interviews and diary entries of Bush and his wife Barbara.

Though Bush maintained an ever-pleasant appearance in his post-presidency life, the comments reveal an opinionated former politician critical of the aides who surrounded his presidential son, George W. Bush. Here’s a sample of those criticisms.


On Dick Cheney, Vice President under George W. Bush:

“He had his own empire there and marched to his own drummer,’’ Mr. Bush said. “It just showed me that you cannot do it that way. The president should not have that worry.’’

He said he thought Mr. Cheney had changed since serving in his cabinet. “He just became very hard-line and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with,’’ Mr. Bush said. He attributed that to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “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.’’

On Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush:

“I think he served the president badly,’’ Mr. Bush said. “I don’t like what he did, and I think it hurt the president having his iron-ass view of everything. 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.’’

He added, “Rumsfeld was an arrogant fellow and self-assured, swagger.’’

On his son’s “Axis of Evil’’ speech:

“I do worry about some of the rhetoric that was out there — some of it his, maybe, and some of it the people around him,’’ Mr. Bush told Mr. Meacham. “Hot rhetoric is pretty easy to get headlines, but it doesn’t necessarily solve the diplomatic problem.’’

Asked for specifics, Mr. Bush cited his son’s State of the Union address in 2002, when he described an “axis of evil’’ that included Iraq, Iran and North Korea. “You go back to the ‘axis of evil’ and these things and I think that might be historically proved to be not benefiting anything,’’ he said.

On Michael Dukakis, his opponent in the 1988 presidential race:

Bush said Dukakis looked like “a little midget nerd’’ coming out of a coal mine, according to National Journal.

Gallery: The 2016 presidential candidates

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