Former President George W. Bush told CBS in an interview Sunday that the chances of his brother Jeb entering the 2016 presidential race are currently “50-50.”
“He and I are very close. On the other hand, he’s not here knocking on my door, you know, agonizing about the decision. He knows exactly, you know, the ramifications on family, for example. He’s seen his dad and his brother go through the presidency,” Bush said.
“I would give it a — I’d give it a tossup. I know this about Jeb, he’s not afraid to succeed. In other words, I think he knows he could do the job. And nor is he afraid to fail.”
The former president said the former Florida governor believes it’s worth putting his family through.
“One of the lessons you learn from George H.W. Bush is that you can go into politics and still be a good father. In other words, the priorities of your life don’t have to be compromised,” George W. said. “I know Jeb’s priority is his family. A priority is his family. I also know it’s his country and his deep faith. And he has seen that you don’t have to sell those out in order to be a — a politician.”
Bush said the hardest part was seeing his dad lose re-election.
“The ’92 defeat was really hard. And ironically, enough, it did make it easier for me, because when people criticized my dad, somebody who I admire greatly, I didn’t react well, at times. And it really, really affected me,” he said. “When they criticized me, the sting wasn’t nearly as difficult. It actually — being his son during his presidency created kind of a layer of asbestos. The only thing I was concerned about was that how would my girls react when they were put in the same position I had been in.”
He believes Bush would have defeated Bill Clinton if Ross Perot hadn’t jumped into the race.
“I think he’d have won and I just can’t prove it. I mean it’s just all conjecture, of course,” Bush said. “But I think he would have won because I think ultimately, there would have been a, you know, a clear choice between, you know, a guy who had a very good first term and an untested governor.”
“It went from 89 to 39 in the poll that really mattered,” he added of H.W.’s sky-high approval rating after the Gulf War to re-election defeat.
“I was somewhat dismayed about the inability for the White House to connect, you know, the message to connect with the American people, that domestic politics really mattered for George Bush as much as international politics,” Bush continued. “In other words, he had a lot of capital to spend and I didn’t — in retrospect, it — it wasn’t spent wisely.”
The president opined that the era of social media has turned the campaign landscape into a nastier place.
In the past, he said, “people were held to account for what they said.”
“In other words, there was a sense — there was a pushback,” Bush said. “Now there’s just so much stuff out there — flotsam out there that people say what they feel like saying without any consequence.”
If Jeb Bush runs? “I’ll do whatever he wants. I will be one of his strongest backers. If he wants me out there publicly, I’ll be out there publicly. If he wants me behind the scenes, I’ll be behind the scenes. You know, I’ll — I’m all in for him. He would be a great president. And I think the country could use an optimistic view like this.”