(2 of 2)
"It is a different problem," says the father as he thinks back over his experience in Desert Storm 11 years ago. "I knew who the enemy was. I knew what our mission was. This is a more difficult battle; this will be a longer battle." As Reagan's Vice President in the 1980s, he headed up a task force on terrorism. That gave him a good understanding of what can and what cannot be done.
"There are some similarities to Desert Storm," Bush says, "like getting other nations to support us, convincing them that our intentions are good. We have to show the Arab countries that we are not going to disrupt them. There can be great hostility in the Arab world."
In fact, in his regular conversations with his son, No. 41 has stressed his concern that the Muslims in the U.S. might be abused. In the back of his mind is the internment of Japanese after Pearl Harbor. As an 18-year-old naval aviation cadet back then, he did not give the issue much thought. He does today and judges that internment wrong.
No. 43's almost unanimous and vocal support from Congress has surprised the former President. Quite a few members of Congress questioned the elder Bush's decision to attack Iraq on the ground in Kuwait. They urged him to wait for economic sanctions to take effect, and there were scary stories about the military's shipping over 50,000 body bags. That sort of political division is not yet apparent, but No. 41 has warned his son of the questions that will surely follow this surge of patriotism.
"George is so strong," declares the father. "I told him that I did not know how he got through that speech without showing more emotion. There was one time when I think he looked out and saw some tears, and that got to him. I know that I could not have looked up at the woman in the gallery, the wife of the man who tried to thwart a hijacker, without breaking up. What I can do these days is kind of put my arm around him from hundreds of miles away."