NORTH CHARLESTON, South Carolina — George W. Bush returned to the presidential campaign trail on Monday night to campaign for Jeb Bush, telling voters in South Carolina that his brother has the “experience and character to be a great president.”
“I’m proud of his candidacy,” Bush said. “I came here for two reasons — one, because I care deeply about Jeb, and two, because I care deeply about our country.”
The former president pointed to the abundant “name-calling” in the 2016 election — an apparent reference to the jabs exchanged between Jeb Bush and Donald Trump in recent months — and joked that according to their father, George H.W. Bush, “labels are for soup cans.”
“(The) presidency is a serious job that requires sound judgment and good ideas,” Bush said.
Although the former president did not once mention Trump’s name in his 20-minute speech, the implicit message was clear: Trump is not a serious candidate.
Bush, who was the country’s leader when the Untied States came under attack on September 11, 2001, reflected on that day — and the “tough calls” he had to make in its aftermath — to present his brother as the most “measured and thoughtful” candidate in the GOP pack.
“When Americans woke up on September 11, we did not know that the world was forever changed that day,” Bush said.
He urged voters here to “look for a candidate who has genuine respect for the United States military [and] who will support them on the battlefield and when they return home.”
Since leaving Washington in 2009 after eight years in the White House, Bush has not shown interest in being in the public spotlight or playing a leadership role within the Republican Party. His visit to North Charleston comes as other members of the Bush clan have also started to play a more active role in Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. In New Hampshire, Bush’s mother and former first lady, Barbara Bush, campaigned with her younger son.
There were plenty of attendees at the North Charleston Coliseum who said their main motivation for coming to Jeb Bush’s rally Monday night was to see an ex-president in person.
Sharon Hickey, a New Hampshire resident who rents a home in South Carolina for a part of the year, said it was “wonderful” to see George W. Bush campaign for his brother.
“We’re honored to be here to see, to be in the presence of, a former President,” Hickey said.
Joe Kelley, a retired fighter fighter from Boston who owns a second home in Murrells Inlet, is currently undecided but leaning towards Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. As he waited to George W. Bush to take the stage, he said he thought the ex-President did a “fine enough job” in the White House.
“In my life time I’ve seen one President in person, Bill Clinton,” Kelley said. “Just to see a president in person — I think it would be nice.”