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Las Vegas • Former president George W. Bush plans to stay off the 2016 campaign trail as his younger brother prepares to mount a presidential bid.
At a closed-door dinner Saturday night before nearly 800 members of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), the 43rd president noted that it could hurt former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush if he campaigned alongside another Bush who served in the White House, according to several attendees.
"He said that one of the challenges his brother is going to have is that the country doesn't like dynasties," recalled David Volosov, a RJC member from Silver Spring, Md. "People are going to say, 'Oh, here comes another Bush.' His response is that he is going to stay as far [away] as he can. He is going to stay away from the whole process."
"He basically said that his brother is going to have some issues with the name 'Bush' to contend with," said Lisa Karlovsky of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Bush's comments were first reported by The New York Times.
For his part, Jeb Bush didn't dispute his brother's analysis when asked after a lunchtime meeting Sunday with two supporters in Miami Beach.
"I think my brother overstates this a lot. People respect him enormously," he told reporters.
But if he launches a formal presidential campaign, Jeb Bush said, "I'm going to have to show my heart, show my life experience. I can't be about any kind of dynastic considerations." He added later that his brother is "smart enough to know that he needs to pull back a little bit, but that's what he's done in his post-presidency. That's why he's been admired by so many people. He doesn't have an opinion about everything. He's let this president have his successes and his mistakes, which is, I think what former presidents need to be doing."
In Las Vegas on Saturday night, the former president largely deflected questions about Hillary Rodham Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, except to say that she would be a formidable opponent for the eventual GOP nominee.
"He said the Republican Party can't underestimate her," Volosov recalled.
Seated on a couch Saturday night in a ballroom of the Venetian hotel, Bush delivered off-the-cuff, often-wry reminiscences about his presidency and his life since leaving the White House. Bush steered clear of explicit criticisms of President Barack Obama, stressing his respect for the institution.
"He was very careful not to criticize the administration," said Tali Raphaely of Miami. "He wasn't scripted, he was just speaking from the heart, which is so refreshing," Karolvsky said, "and he was very respectful of the current president."
But Bush warned that the United States should not lift sanctions on Iran until its nuclear program is dismantled, suggesting that he has reservations about the current nuclear framework agreement.