Few former presidents have embraced obscurity like George W. Bush. In the seven years since he left office, Bush has occupied himself with writing and painting while studiously avoiding the temptation to get involved in politics. He has weathered the incessant blame from the Obama administration with little comment, content to enjoy his retirement years in peace.
On Monday night, however, his solitude came to an abrupt end. The former president took to the stage in North Charleston, South Carolina to stump for his brother, Jeb Bush, who has faced a rocky road to the Republican nomination. Once thought to be the inevitable winner, Bush has struggled in the face of an unexpected juggernaut: one Donald J. Trump.
From the outset of his campaign, it seemed clear that Bush was wary of his family’s legacy. He centered his candidacy around a single name – Jeb! – in what many thought was an attempt to separate himself from his older brother. Bush’s war in Iraq, popular at the time the troops invaded, has come to be seen as a mistake by even his one-time supporters. That Jeb is now relying on W. for support shows just how quickly his gameplan ran off the rails.
At this point, it’s unclear if Jesus himself could resurrect Jeb’s flailing campaign, but George gave it his best shot in front of 3,000 cheering fans. “The presidency is a serious job that requires sound judgment and good ideas, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Jeb Bush has the experience and the character to be a great president,” Bush 43 said Monday.
He took indirect aim at Trump, telling the crowd: “All the sloganeering and all the talk doesn’t matter if we don’t win. These are tough times, and I understand that Americans are angry and frustrated, but we do not need someone in the Oval Office who mirrors and inflames our anger and frustration.”
Trump, slamming both Jeb and the former president in a news conference earlier in the day, was less cautious about his criticism. “The worst attack ever in this country? It was during his presidency,” Trump said of Bush. “Now Iraq is Harvard for terrorism. You want to become a terrorist? You go to Iraq. Saddam Hussein understood, and he killed terrorists.”
Trump concluded, saying, “If the president went to the beach, we would have been better off, believe me.”