There are times in the life of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States and father of the 43rd, that people, perfect strangers, come up to him and say the harshest things — words intended to comfort but words that wind up only causing pain.
“I love you, sir, but your son’s way off base here,” they might say, according to Ron Kaufman, a longtime adviser to Mr. Bush, who has witnessed any number of such encounters — perhaps at a political fund-raiser, or a restaurant dinner, a chance meeting on the streets of Houston or Kennebunkport, Me. They are, he says, just one way the presidency of the son has taken a toll on the father.
“It wears on his heart,” Mr. Kaufman said, “and his soul.”
The official line from the White House is that 41, as he is known in Bush circles, gives advice to 43 only when asked. But interviews with a broad range of people close to both presidents — including family members like the elder Mr. Bush’s daughter, Doro Bush Koch, and aides who have worked for both men, like Andrew H. Card Jr. — suggest a far more complicated father-son dynamic, in which the former president is not nearly so distant as the White House would have people believe.
From official White House footage, George H.W. Bush speaks with his son...