George H.W. Bush: Media Unfairly Slamming My Son (Paging ‘Mr. Sulzberger’)

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By: E&P Staff

Appearing on the Larry King show on CNN Monday night, former President George H.W. Bush defended his son against criticism for his response to the hurricane disaster, suggesting it was mainly media-generated.

Goaded on by King, he eventually backed off, saying if he kept talking he would be hearing from “Mr. Sulzberger,” apparently referring to Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., publisher of The New York Times.

Asked about the criticism, the former president said, “I think any time there’s a crisis people want to blame someone. I’ve never been much for the Monday morning quarterbacking and to be very candid, Larry, I think some of the criticism had been grossly unfair, particularly when they suggest the president doesn’t care and all of that.

“You have to understand that people that are hurting are going to criticize. I thought President Clinton put it pretty well today when he said ‘Let’s get on with it and then there will be plenty of time to assign blame.’

“But you know the media has a fascination, Larry, and you know this, I’m not saying you but the media has a fascination with the blame game and instead of looking for what can we do to help now there’s a lot of why didn’t we do something different?”

KING: “But even the president said the reaction should have been faster that he wasn’t satisfied.”

G. BUSH: “Sure. I don’t think — certainly I’m not satisfied but I’m just talking about the blame game and there was one particularly vicious comment that the president didn’t care, was insensitive on ethnicity.”

KING: “Yes.”

G. BUSH: “Insensitive about race. Now that one hurt because I know this president and I know he does care and you know what can he do? He can just go out and do what he’s doing today, showing that the federal government is involved, has been involved, will continue to be involved.

“Huge numbers of dollars have been appropriated or signed off on for the Congress, both Senate and the House and he had to push forward. He cannot listen to every critic from the editorial page of The New York Times.”

KING: “What do you think it’s like? He’s fighting two wars isn’t he? He’s fighting a war in Iraq and he’s fighting a war against nature.”

G. BUSH: “Yes, that’s right. Now the first war can be run by generals and I think, I’m confident we’ll prevail there. But this other one was just so devastating because it struck without any political overtones. It just was terrible.

“But you know I talked to Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi yesterday because some people were saying, ‘Well, if you hadn’t sent your National Guard to Iraq, we here in Mississippi would be better off.’ He told me ‘I’ve been out in the field every single day, hour, for four days and no one, not one single mention of the word Iraq.’

“Now where does that come from? Where does that story come from if the governor is not picking up one word about it? I don’t know. I can use my imagination.

“I don’t want to be in my attack mode, Larry, but…”

KING: “Why not?”

G. BUSH: “I’ve already said enough. Mr. Sulzberger will be calling in.”

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