​Bush 43 on Bush 41

In all our history, we've had just two sets of father-and-son Presidents . . . John and John Quincy Adams; and George H. W. and George W. Bush. The younger George Bush (President # 43) has quite a bit to say about his father (#41), and in an interview at his Presidential Library in Texas, George W. Bush has much to tell our chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer:

Schieffer asked, "Do you think you would've been president had it not been for him?"

"Well, I wouldn't have been born had it not been for him!" President George W. Bush laughed. "He introduced me to politics. I mean, had he gone into politics and turned out to be a lousy father or a lousy husband, I probably wouldn't have been interested."

And so they stand, side-by-side in bronze. Two presidents, father and son, whose presidencies were intertwined unlike any others.


A father whose public image was often at-odds with what his son says is his true nature -- like a parachute jump on his 90th birthday earlier this year. It's the scene that launches a new biography our 43rd president has written about the 41st.

"So what does the son say to an elderly parent who keeps jumping out of airplanes?" Schieffer asked.

"Keep jumpin', man!" replied Mr. Bush. "It's as Mother said: 'I'm glad your father's jumping out at the church we go to up in Maine, because if it doesn't work, we won't have to go very far for the funeral.'"

Schieffer asked, "He was dogged by critics who said in one way or another he was weak. The word 'prudent' was always associated with him. Newsweek magazine did a cover in the '88 campaign saying he had to confront the wimp factor."

"I was furious," said Mr. Bush. "I mean, George Bush is a man of enormous courage. He's just not really good about beatin' his chest. But his life is one that is, if you analyze it properly, it's full of courageous decisions."

George Herbert Walker Bush was born to wealth and power. But when World War II came, he defied his family and enlisted on his 18th birthday.

A carrier pilot, he flew 58 missions, and was shot down over the Pacific.

He married his sweetheart, Barbara Pierce, and after the war, Bush seemed destined for Wall Street.

Instead, he chose the road less-traveled, packing his family off to the rough-and-rowdy oil town of Odessa, Texas.

"The oil boom in '48, you know, made housing pretty difficult to find," recalled Mr. Bush. "He goes down there and finds a duplex for Mother and me and himself [that] had an indoor plumbing, one of the few indoor bathrooms in Odessa. And we shared the bathroom with two hookers.

"Yeah," he laughed. "I delight in the imagery of East Coast comfort to, you know, two ladies of the night sharin' a bathroom with George and Barbara and little George W. He wasn't looking for comfort. He was looking for challenge, and found it."

CBS News' Bob Schieffer with the former president, at the George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum in Dallas. CBS News
He struck it big in the oil fields. But the Connecticut Yankee drilled some dry holes in Texas politics before he finally won a seat in Congress.

The GOP pegged him as a rising star, which lead to appointments as U.N. Ambassador; Chairman of the Republican Party; U.S. Envoy to China; and Director of the CIA.

In 1980, moderates in his party urged Bush to run for president, and he came charging out of the gate.

From "Face the Nation," Jan. 22, 1980:

Bush: "What we will have, you see, is momentum. We will have forward, Big Mo being on our side, as they say in athletics."
Schieffer: "'Big Mo'?"
Bush: "Yeah. Mo momentum!"

But "Big Mo" got rolled by the Reagan revolution. Bush accepted a job he never wanted -- eight years as Reagan's vice president. It was a calculated gamble, and in 1988 it paid-off.

His eldest son had followed him into the oil business, and into politics as well.

At the Republican National Convention in 1988, George W. Bush said,

"Texas casts all its votes for her favorite son and the best father in America, George Bush."

Bush won the presidency by promising to "stay the course," and with a pledge ("Read my lips") against new taxes.