NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — George W. and Laura Bush returned to the campaign trail Monday to campaign for Jeb Bush, who's hoping some brotherly love can reboot his campaign.
The former president and first lady took the stage at a convention center here alongside the former Florida governor, who's hoping to become the 45th president, after his father served as the 41st and his older brother as the 43rd.
"I understand that Americans are angry and frustrated but we do not need someone in the Oval Office who mirrors and inflames our frustration," the former president told at least 1,000 people.
George W. Bush never uttered the name of Donald Trump — the current Republican front-runner. But his 20-minute address was laced with veiled references to the outspoken businessman, who suggested at a debate on Saturday night that the former president should have been impeached for his leadership of the Iraq War.
Strength in a president, Bush said, "is not empty rhetoric, it is not bluster, it is not theatrics. Real strength – strength of purpose – comes from integrity and character. And in my experience, the strongest person usually isn’t the loudest one in the room."
George W. Bush then introduced "my big little brother" to the crowd, who thanked his brother and sister-in-law for campaigning in the Palmetto State.
"I look back at my brother’s time – he didn’t know that 9/11 was going to happen, but he rolled up his sleeves, and he inspired us and he kept us safe," he said.
Earlier Monday, the former president and first lady visited an American Legion Post in downtown Columbia for lunch with about 100 local military veterans, who dined on barbecue sandwiches with Jeb Bush campaign volunteers.
Before the meeting, the former president met privately with Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, whose endorsement is being eagerly sought by several GOP presidential contenders. Haley and Jeb Bush have known each other for several years, and she has consulted the former Florida governor on domestic policy matters, including education reform.
In his remarks Monday night in Charleston, the former president mentioned his meeting with Haley and added: "Thank goodness our country welcomed her parents from India when they immigrated here in 1969."
At the Legion Post, George W. Bush worked the room, going down each table, shaking hands, giving hugs and posing for photos with his wife by his side.
“How ya doing, buddy?” he said to one man.
“Hold on, let me sign this,” he said as he signed a paperback copy of his memoir of his White House years, “Decision Points.”
“Trapper! I like that name,” he said to Trapper Freeman, who was wearing a name tag.
When a man shouted that he remembered when George W. Bush came to South Carolina after losing New Hampshire, Bush said: “I’m a half glass full man.”
The former president took no questions, according to a pool report of the event coordinated by Jeb Bush's campaign.
Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, a Jeb Bush supporter and Air Force veteran, said that the former president's appearance in the Palmetto State "will have a significant impact because the Bush family is beloved and President Bush as an individual is one of the most popular political leaders in the Republican Party throughout the country and particularly in South Carolina," he said. "I think it reminds people of resolve, determination, the man who brought us together after 9/11, the man who rallied the world to go after a vicious enemy.”