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Bush's war is personal

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http://nydailynews.com/front/v-pfriendly/story/22406p-21226c.html

By THOMAS M. DeFRANK

DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU

Saturday, September 28th, 2002

WASHINGTON - Unlike the Godfather, President Bush's cold-eyed line toward Saddam Hussein appears to be both business and personal.

During a GOP fund-raising dinner in Houston on Thursday night, Bush interjected a poignant familial reference into his standard recitation of the Iraqi dictator's evil ways.

"There's no doubt his hatred is mainly directed at us," Bush said. "There's no doubt he can't stand us.

"After all, this is a guy that tried to kill my dad at one time."

One GOP dinner guest yesterday said that, "You could almost hear the hush settle over the ballroom."

It wasn't the first time Bush has referred to the Iraqi attempt to assassinate his father during a 1993 visit to Kuwait as a private citizen - a plot that prompted then-President Bill Clinton to order a retaliatory cruise missile attack against Baghdad on July 26, 1993.

In his Sept. 12 United Nations speech, Bush said, "In 1993, Iraq attempted to assassinate the emir of Kuwait and a former American President," without saying the intended target was his father.

Relatively speaking

Thursday's reference was far more explicit and expressive, reflecting Bush's loyalty to his father and his outrage that a head of state would try to kill any American President, according to aides.

"It's not about family or patriarchy," a well-placed Bush source said. "But it is personal with Saddam Hussein, because the President believes him to be an evil person."

It's a feeling shared by Bush's father, who told CNN this month that he has "nothing but hatred" for Saddam.

"I hate Saddam Hussein, and I don't hate a lot of people. ... There's nothing redeeming about this man," the former President said.

Long before entering the White House, the current President had a reputation within the tight-knit Bush clan as the chief enforcer.

Key role in campaigns

His father installed him in the 1988 and 1992 presidential campaigns as an unofficial adviser.

"His real job was keeping tabs on who was loyal to the old man and who wasn't," said a former senior campaign aide.

"We have a saying in our family," Bush once told a reporter. "If a grenade is rolling by The Man, you dive on it first."

Even the most partisan Democrats don't suggest personal motives are driving Bush's policy toward Iraq.

Nonetheless, one ranking Democratic strategist found Bush's "dad" comment troubling.

"It's pretty disturbing that he would allow emotion and sentimentality to play a significant role in his policy-making," the official said.

A Bush official called that remark "totally ridiculous."

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