Former US president George HW Bush has criticised one-time defence chief Donald Rumsfeld and former vice president Dick Cheney in a new biography.
In a blistering critique, Mr Bush said Mr Rumsfeld “served the president badly” when his son George W Bush was in the White House and Mr Cheney “built his own empire” and asserted too much “hard-line” influence.
The critical assessments of Mr Rumsfeld and Mr Cheney – key players in the US-led war in Iraq – are contained in a biography of the nation’s 41st president to be published next week.
In interviews with biographer Jon Meacham, Mr Bush, now 91, said that Mr Cheney acted too independently and asserted too much “hard-line” influence within George W Bush’s administration, especially after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Jeb Bush, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, said on that he had not read the book.
“My thought was that Dick Cheney served my dad really well,” Jeb Bush said. “And he served as vice president, he served my brother really well. Different eras. Different times.”
The book, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, also contains the elder Bush’s ruminations about his son, whom he praised but also called responsible for empowering Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld.
Of Mr Cheney, who was a member of the elder Bush’s cabinet, he said: “He just became very hard-line and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with.”
Mr Bush said he thinks the September 11 attacks changed the vice president, making him more hawkish about the use of US military force abroad.
“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,” Mr Bush said.
Talking about Mr Rumsfeld, the elder Bush used stronger, more personal criticism, the New York Times reported.
“I think he served the president badly. I don’t like what he did, and I think it hurt the president having his iron-ass view of everything,” Mr Bush said.
The elder Bush did not suggest in the book that he disagreed with his son about the invasion of Iraq.
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein “is gone, and with him went a lot of brutality and nastiness and awfulness”, Mr Bush said.
He said he worried that the younger Bush used rhetoric that was at times too strong, citing as an example the 43rd president’s 2002 State of the Union address, during which he described an “axis of evil” including 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.