Former President George W. Bush has identified one of the liabilities his brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will face if he runs for president in 2016: "Me."
"It's an easy line to say, 'Haven't we had enough Bushes?' After all, even my mother said, 'Yes,'" the former president said Wednesday at a health information technology conference, according to Politico. "That's why you won't see me out there, and he doesn't need to defend me, and he's totally different from me. The role of family is not to be a political adviser or a policy adviser - there are plenty of those around - the role is to say, 'Hey man, I love you.'"
The former president recalled the encouragement - or lack thereof - he received from some members of his own family when he decided to run for president in 2000.
"The president needs people around him who are there to say they want to help. Imagine if instead Laura had been saying to me, 'What the hell did you get us into this for?' You're living in a museum. It's cold. It's not your furniture. It's Jefferson's furniture," he said. "My two girls had no desire to see me run for office. Their response was, 'You're not as good as you think you are; you're going to lose.' And when that didn't' work, 'You're going to ruin our life.'"
"So I said to Jeb, 'Hang in there; you can do the job. Will you win? I hope so but I don't know.' But if he does he'd be a damn good president I'll tell you that," Bush continued. "It's going to be a hard test for everyone, but it should be. You want to see these candidates under pressure, see them fail and succeed so you have a better idea how they'll handle the pressures of the job. Jeb has actually run something, called a state. That's a skill that comes in handy where you're in charge of a very complex multifaceted organization."
George W. Bush left the presidency in 2009 deeply unpopular, thanks partly to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a financial crisis that pushed the American economy to the brink. His approval ratings have since recovered somewhat, but many analysts still believe his legacy could still pose real problems for his younger brother, who's laying the groundwork for a 2016 bid.
"What he's going to hope is that by basically constantly saying, 'Here are the things that I believe,' people will stop talking about his relationship to his father and his brother," explained CBS News political director and future "Face the Nation" host John Dickerson. "He's just got to hope to change the conversation. But as George W. Bush put it, the problem here is that it gives an easy reason for people to classify him and stop listening. And what Jeb Bush is trying to do is get people to actually listen."
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie brought up the relationship in an interview with Yahoo's Matt Bai this week, saying, "Listen, if your father and your brother have been president of the United States, and you enter the race, you make the race different, you know? There's no one else who could have entered the race who was bringing that résumé to the table, that both their father and their brother had been president."
The former Florida governor took an early stab at demarcating himself from his brother and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, in February, when he gave a speech on foreign policy and declared, "I love my father and my brother. I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make But I am my own man, and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences."
It's a message he repeated as recently as Tuesday, when he told the Ohio Chamber of Commerce he's proud of his father and brother, but "I'm also my own person. I've lived my own life."