Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PolitiFact.com | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in politics

PolitiFact: On Dick Cheney, Margaret Thatcher and 'wobbly' George H.W. Bush

The statement

Says it's "an old wives' story" that Margaret Thatcher told George H.W. Bush not to go wobbly.

Dick Cheney, in an interview on Fox News

The ruling

It's one of Margaret Thatcher's most memorable quotes, spoken to President George H.W. Bush after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait: "Remember, George, this is no time to go wobbly."

Dick Cheney, the defense secretary who would become vice president, recently called it "an old wives' story."

And we said: Really?

Cheney fondly recalled the former British prime minister, who died Monday, in a Fox interview with Greta Van Susteren.

Van Susteren: "But there's that famous quote where, apparently, she told President Bush 41 not to go wobbly."

Cheney: "That's not true."

Van Susteren: "That's not true?"

Cheney: "Not true, no."

Van Susteren: "That's a falsehood."

Cheney: "An old wives' story. There was never any doubt about what the president was doing. He didn't need any bucking up."

We've reviewed speeches, transcripts, books and more, and we can tell you: Bush and Thatcher agree that she said it.

Bush himself publicly told the story in a 1991 speech as he awarded Thatcher the Medal of Freedom. He mentioned it in a 1998 book. She mentioned it in her 1993 memoirs and in a Frontline interview.

But the popular account has taken on a life of its own — one doesn't match what Bush and Thatcher have said.

In their versions, it happened during a phone call three weeks after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

The leaders disagreed about how to respond to ships leaving Iraq in defiance of U.N. sanctions. The Bush administration wanted to delay action a few days to win support from the Soviet Union through the U.N. Security Council. Thatcher urged immediacy.

Bush says in his 1998 book she warned him "this is no time to go wobbly" around Aug. 22 as he explained why they would delay using force. Thatcher says in her 1993 memoir she warned "this was no time to go wobbly" as he explained on Aug. 26 why, even with new U.N. authorization to enforce sanctions, they would let a ship through.

But some accounts place the quote earlier — on Aug. 2, the same day that Iraq invaded.

Those accounts don't match that of Philip Zelikow, a National Security Council staffer under Bush, or of Bush's national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, who spoke about it in 1996.

Zelikow, now a history professor and associate dean at the University of Virginia, said in 2000, "I remember her using that line later in the context of arguments over the rules of engagement in the embargo and so forth."

In any telling, Thatcher warned Bush against wobbliness in August or September 1990.

We rate Cheney's claim False.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: On Dick Cheney, Margaret Thatcher and 'wobbly' George H.W. Bush 04/11/13 [Last modified: Thursday, April 11, 2013 4:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. What to watch this weekend: 'Star Trek: Discovery,' 'DuckTales' returns

    Blogs

    Boldly go: Star Trek: Discovery

    It's been more than 50 years since the original Star Trek premiered, but the new CBS series is set 10 years before Kirk and Spock. Star Trek: Discovery explores the war between the Federation and the Klingons while following the USS Discovery, an exploratory …

    Sonequa Martin-Green in Star Trek: Discovery on CBS.
  2. First lady Melania Trump heads to White House garden for planting, harvesting

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — Melania Trump is heading out to the White House garden to do some planting and harvesting.

    First lady Melania Trump picks peppers with a girl with the Boys and Girls Club of Washington in the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn of the White House, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Washington. [Andrew Harnik | Associated Press]
  3. New aerial photos show Puerto Rico devastation; at least 6 dead in Hurricane Maria aftermath

    Hurricanes

    SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — Early aerial images of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria here show waterlogged neighborhoods, roofs peeled off homes and shopping centers, and once-lush landscape …

    Aerial photo of flooding in the costal town of Loiza, on the north shore of Puerto Rico. [Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for the Washington Post]
  4. State rolls out food assistance program for residents affected by Hurricane Irma

    Hurricanes

    Help is on the way for Florida residents struggling to put food on the table after Hurricane Irma.

    The Salvation Army Mobile Food Pantry hlped out with free food in Largo after Hurricane Irma. Now, the federal government is expanding access to food for people affected by the storm. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  5. Kriseman proclaims Buy Local week in St. Pete to quicken storm recovery

    Blogs

    Mayor Rick Kriseman has proclaimed next week to be "'Burg Buy Local Week" in an appeal to residents to help small businesses struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman wants St. Pete residents to help small businesses recover from Hurricane Irma