In biography, George H.W. Bush slams 'Iron-Ass' Cheney, Rumsfeld

Carrie Dann and Andrew Rafferty

Jeb Bush told NBC News on Thursday that his father, former President George H.W. Bush, was attempting to "create a different narrative" by heaping criticism on former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for their outsized influence in the White House.

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"My brother is a big boy, his administration was shaped by his thinking, his reaction to the attack on 9/11. I think my dad, like a lot of people that love George [W. Bush], want to try to create a different narrative, perhaps, just because that's natural to do," Jeb Bush told NBC's Kasie Hunt.

"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,'" Jeb Bush added.

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According to the New York Times, the elder Bush told biographer Jon Meacham that Cheney "had his own empire there and marched to his own drummer." Calling the former vice president "iron-ass," the elder Bush said he "just became very hard-line and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with."

The former president also called Rumsfeld "an arrogant fellow" and suggested that his lack of empathy made him a poor public servant in George W. Bush's White House.

"I think he served the president badly," H.W. Bush said. "I don't like what he did, and I think it hurt the president having his iron-ass view of everything."

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"There's a lack of humility, a lack of seeing what the other guy thinks. He's more kick ass and take names, take numbers. I think he paid a price for that," he said.

In a statement to NBC News, Rumsfeld said, "Bush 41 is getting up in years and misjudges Bush 43, who I found made his own decisions."

The former president's comments, detailed in Meacham's book "Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush," are sure to be seen through the prism of the presidential run of his other son, Jeb. The former Florida governor is struggling to regain political momentum, in part after questions about the dynastic nature of his 2016 run.

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Jeb Bush said that Cheney, "served my brother well as vice president, and he served my dad extraordinarily well as secretary of defense."

"We have to get beyond, I think, this feeling that somehow 1991 is the same as 2001," he added.

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In the book, George H.W. Bush doesn't shy away from criticism of George W. Bush, suggesting that some of his son's rhetoric — like describing North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an "axis of evil" - was ill-advised.

"I do worry about some of the rhetoric that was out there — some of it his, maybe, and some of it the people around him," he said of George W. Bush.