WASHINGTON -- Former President George H.W. Bush is publicly criticizing for the first time key members of his son's administration.
A biography of the nation's 41st president to be published next week contains his sharply critical assessments of former Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
In interviews with biographer Jon Meacham, Bush, now 91, said that Cheney acted too independently and asserted too much "hard-line" influence within George W. Bush's administration, especially after the Sept. 11 attacks. He had even harsher words for Rumsfeld, saying he "served the president badly."
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 Cheney and Rumsfeld.
Of Cheney, who was a member of the elder Bush's cabinet, Bush said, "He just became very hard-line and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with."
Bush said he thinks the Sept. 11 attacks changed the vice president, making him more hawkish about the use of U.S. 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," Bush said.
Talking about Rumsfeld, the elder Bush used stronger, more personal criticism, the newspaper 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," Bush said.
Rumsfeld, in a statement to NBC News, hit back at the former chief executive. "Bush 41 is getting up in years and misjudges Bush 43, who I found made his own decisions."
Former President George W. Bush also defended his administration, saying he was "proud to have served with Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld."
"Dick Cheney did a superb job as Vice President, and I was fortunate to have him by my side throughout my presidency," the younger Bush said in a statement. "Don Rumsfeld ably led the Pentagon and was an effective Secretary of Defense. I am grateful to both men for their good advice, selfless service to our country, and friendship."
Brother Jeb Bush also tried to take the heat off of Cheney, telling NBC in a Thursday interview that "he served my brother well as vice president, and he served my dad extraordinary well as secretary of defense."
"My brother's a big boy. His administration was shaped by his thinking, his reaction to the attack on 9/11," the GOP 2016 candidate said. "I think my dad, like a lot of people that love George want to try to create a different narrative perhaps, just cause that's natural to do, right? But George would say, this was under my watch, I was commander-in-chief, I was the leader, and I accept personal responsibility for what happened, both the good and the bad."
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," 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."
"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.
The new book also reports that Donald Trump, now one of the leading Republican candidates for the White House, wanted to be Bush's running mate in 1988.
Jeb Bush, currently a contender for the GOP presidential nomination, had suggested to his father that he leave his then-Vice President Dan Quayle off the 1992 ticket.