George W Bush: Jeb a 'strong and steady hand' for president
North Charleston, United States - Agence France-Presse
AP photoGeorge W. Bush, campaigning for his brother for the first time, says Jeb has the backbone and optimism to be president and that Americans should avoid nominating someone who "mirrors and inflames our frustration."
The former president and his "big little brother" Jeb Bush tag-teamed Monday for a forceful denunciation of the man currently at the top of their Republican party's polls, the billionaire Donald Trump.
Bush the elder received a hero's welcome in South Carolina, where he remains a revered figure by many, and sought to steer the 2016 race away from the mudslinging and personal insults and toward character and judgment.
With Jeb desperate to score a comeback victory after poor showings in early-voting Iowa and New Hampshire, he said the best applicant for the world's most powerful job was not necessarily the loudest, but the one who could best apply his skills.
"I've seen Jeb in action. He'll be a strong and steady hand when confronted with the unexpected," Bush said of his brother, who is seeking a boost to his fortunes in South Carolina.
The southeastern state on Feb. 20 becomes the third to vote in the presidential nominating contest leading up to the November election.
Trump's controversial remarks and policy positions -- last year he called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States -- have caused an uproar.
But he is an anti-establishment outsider seizing on voter anxiety and anger with Washington, and remains firmly at the top of the polls even after turning American political convention on its head.
George W's message: don't buy into it.
"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," Bush told some 3,000 people in North Charleston, one of Jeb's largest crowds since the Florida ex-governor launched his presidential bid last June.
"There seems to be a lot of name calling going on," Bush said.
"Labels are for soup cans. The presidency is a serious job that requires sound judgment and good ideas," he added, stressing that his brother is the Republican candidate "who can win in November."
It was a polished speech, filled with Dubya's trademark Texas twang, by a controversial politician whose family remains highly popular in South Carolina.
Some attendees openly admitted they had come to see the former president, not necessarily to hear Jeb Bush.
With the elder Bush brother launching into the caustic Republican nomination fray, Trump unleashed a new round of invective at his challengers.
Trump rounded on the former president during Feb. 13 debate in a bid to blunt any Bush progress, and he continued the assault Monday at a press conference, slamming George W, who was president during the 9/11, 2001 terror attacks.
"So you had that. You obviously had the war which was a big mistake. I think few people would say the war in Iraq was a positive," Trump said.
Jeb Bush, for his part, argued that Americans should want an experienced hand in charge, especially when it came to national security.
"Who is going to be the steady hand to keep us safe?" he said.
Trump also scolded Senator Ted Cruz, his current closest competitor, as "totally unstable" and a "liar" for attacking Trump's earlier, liberal positions on abortion and health care.
And he repeated his threat to sue Cruz over his eligibility to be president. Trump is insisting that Cruz, who was born in Canada, is not a natural born citizen as the US Constitution requires candidates to be.
At an event in Mount Pleasant, the brash billionaire lashed out at the party itself, calling the Republican National Committee a "disgrace" after he was loudly booed at Saturday's Republican debate by an audience that Trump said was stacked with establishment lobbyists and donors.
"The RNC better get its act together," he said.
Trump leads by a stunning 20 points over Cruz in the Palmetto State, known for its brutal political atmosphere.
Senator Marco Rubio, seeking a resurrection after finishing fifth in New Hampshire, is third at 14.3 percent, followed by 10.5 percent for Ohio Governor John Kasich, whose impressive second place New Hampshire finish was helping him surge here.
Bush is fifth at 10 percent, with former neurosurgeon Ben Carson at just 4.5 percent support.
South Carolina voter Wendy Johnson, who attended the Bush rally, said she was torn between Trump, Rubio and Bush, but that she was growing tired of Trump's insults and thought he might be "too hot-headed."
As for Bush, "he's a good guy," the 44-year-old stay-at-home mom told AFP. "I just don't know if has the fire in him that his brother had."