Former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld hits back at criticism by former president George HW Bush Getty

Former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld has responded to claims from George HW Bush that he is "arrogant", claiming that the former president "is getting up in years". Rumsfeld was a key figure in the administration of Bush Snr's son, President George W Bush, and one of the architects of its policies in the Middle East in the wake of 9/11.

In a new biography, Bush Snr blames Rumsfeld for some of the mistakes his son's administration made. The 91-year-old told his biographer, Jon Meacham, that Rumsfeld was "an arrogant fellow", adding: "I've never been that close to him anyway. 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.

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

In a statement, Rumsfeld defended his decisions, saying of Bush, who was 41st US president and his son, who was 43rd: "Bush 41 is getting up in years and misjudges Bush 43, who I found made his own decisions.

"There are hundreds of memos on that represent advice DoD [department of defence] gave the president."

George HW Bush and George W Bush
George HW Bush and his son George W Bush, the 41st and 43rd presidents of the USA Getty Images

In the interview, Bush Snr also criticised Bush Jnr's vice president, Dick Cheney, who had served as his own secretary of defence between 1989 and 1993. "I don't know, he just became very hardline and very different from the Dick Cheney I knew and worked with," Bush Snr told his biographer. Cheney responded that he took Bush Snr's description of him as "iron ass" as a mark of pride.

In a statement, Bush Jnr defended his former colleagues: "Dick Cheney did a superb job as vice-president, and I was fortunate to have him by my side throughout my presidency.

"Don Rumsfeld ably led the Pentagon and was an effective secretary of defence. I am grateful to both men for their good advice, selfless service to our country, and friendship."

One of the political clan is bidding to become the third member of the family to serve as president, with another of Bush Snr's sons, Jeb Bush, currently battling for the Republican presidential nomination, where he has become embroiled in arguments with opponents over his brother's legacy.

The biography, Destiny And Power: The American Odyssey Of George Herbert Walker Bush, will be published next week and is likely to refocus debate on the legacy of one of America's most influential political dynasties.