COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Former President George W. Bush said Tuesday that he and his father believe Jeb Bush should run for president but ultimately the former Florida governor must make a decision regardless of any pressure from the family.
"I can tell you I can speak for 41," Bush said, referring to the 41st president, George H.W. Bush, during the official launch of the 43rd president's book at his dad's presidential library centre at Texas A&M University. "He ought to run for president. He would make a great president."
"We can pressure him all we want, but it's not going to matter. ... You can't pressure somebody on such an important decision. It's not going to cause him to think positively or negatively if we all continue to harass him. Only he can decide."
With his father and mother a few feet from him in the front row of an auditorium filled with a friendly audience of several hundred people, Bush was responding to questions from Andrew Card, his father's transportation secretary and his own White House chief of staff, primarily about his personal book "41: A Portrait of My Father." The older Bush, seated in a wheelchair, smiled and waved but did not speak at the event.
George W. Bush said he didn't know of any timetable for a decision but said from speaking with his brother he knows Jeb Bush "doesn't like the idea of a political class."
"The idea of 'Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Bush' troubles him, which speaks to his great integrity," George W. Bush said of the succession of recent presidents. "So I said: 'How does this sound? Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, Clinton,'" George W. Bush added, referring to the potential presidential run of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"The point is you don't get to pick the environment in which you run."
The comments were his most detailed to date about the possibility of continuing the Bush political dynasty. George W. Bush said Sunday on CBS that there was a 50-50 chance Jeb would run. Jeb Bush was not in attendance at the book event Tuesday.
George W. Bush, 68, said he wrote the book now while his father, 90 and in fragile health, was still alive and able to "see how much I care for him" and how much other people care for him. He also said a favourable reassessment of George H.W. Bush's presidency is emerging, despite it being a single term and being "overshadowed" by the two terms of predecessor Ronald Reagan.
"This is a love story. It's not an objective analysis," he said of the book. "It's a story of an extraordinary man, in my judgment, the finest one-term president our country has ever had."
The book includes Bush's take on his father's early failures in politics, his decision to go to war with Iraq in 1991 and the 1992 re-election loss to Bill Clinton. In the book, he says his father seriously considered not even running for re-election, despite loving his job, because he thought holding the presidency had placed son Neil under undue legal scrutiny for his role as a director of a large Colorado-based savings and loan that failed in the late 1980s.
The book includes personal anecdotes, including how the elder Bush, described as "a family man first," struggled with the death of daughter Robin from leukemia in 1953 and how his dad sobbed at the hospital nursery glass following the birth six years later of daughter Dorothy.
He dismissed Tuesday as "psychobabble" any suggestions of friction between presidential father and president son and credited his dad with serving as an example for when he got to the White House.
"You never know until you get there," he said. "He helped a lot by checking in on occasion."
Bush also made light of his appearance at the Bush library's "distinguished author series."
"I don't qualify," he said. "I have written a book. Kind of surprised people in parts of our country that I can write, much less read."