...[O]ne of the worst-kept secrets in Bush World is the dismay, in some cases disdain, harbored by many senior aides of the former President toward the administration of his son....Hell, by comparison with 43, Richard Nixon looks better and better. Bush I may have been a mediocre failure as a president, but at least he took the job seriously, and had a healthy respect for the office and its responsibilities. Bush II, on the other hand, treats the presidency like something he won on a reality show. He is the first American president with no sense of accountability to the people he serves. Indeed, Bush II is the first American president to believe that the people serve him and not vice versa.
For five years, the 41s have bit their collective tongues as, they complain, the 43s ignored their counsel. But as the war in Iraq has worsened and public support for the current administration has tanked, loyalists of the elder Bush have found it impossible to suppress their disillusionment - particularly their belief that many of 43's policies are a stick in the eye of his father.
"Forty-three has now repudiated everything 41 stands for, and still he won't say a word," a key member of the elder Bush alumni said. "Personally, I think he's dying inside."
To 41 loyalists, the bill of indictment is voluminous. Some alleged 43 has betrayed his father's middle-of-the-road philosophy by governing as a divider, not the uniter he promised in the 2000 campaign. Others, like former 41 speechwriter Curt Smith, argue 43 isn't conservative enough.
"Conservatives want limited government, a balanced Middle East approach, a foreign policy that builds, not destroys, and general, not special, interest," Smith said. "Bush 41 endorsed all of the above. Bush 43 supports none."
While the 41s do most of the finger-pointing, aides to the current President reject the criticism as nitpicking from out-of-touch malcontents.
They also bash the 41s for going public, charging much of the damaging material in Bob Woodward's new book, "State of Denial," was provided by 41 partisans.
"Nobody has a monopoly on wisdom," a 43 staffer said, "especially those whose information may not be as good as when they were in power."
"Everyone knew how Rumsfeld acts," another key 41 assistant said. "Everyone knew 43 didn't have an attention span. Everyone knew Condi [Rice] wouldn't be able to stand up to Cheney and Rumsfeld. We told them all of this, and we were told we don't know what we're doing."
Another top former 41 loyalist confided that several ex-colleagues remarked on a perceived "stature gap" between father and son as they sat on the dais.
The 41s concede their broadsides are awkward for their ex-boss, but say they're motivated by a desire to protect his legacy.
In fact, the 41s suggest a singular irony: the unpopularity of the son's administration may be rehabilitating the father's.
"By comparison, the old man looks better and better," a senior 41 hand said, with undisguised satisfaction.
I keep thinking of this SNL sketch from the 2000 campaign, which now seems eerily prescient...