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Jeb, George W. Not Close, Don't Talk Often

Greg Richter

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Jan. 18, 2015

As former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush mulls a 2016 White House run, comparisons inevitably spring up between him and his brother, former President George W. Bush, the most recent Republican to occupy the Oval Office.

The two aren't especially close, The New York Times reports, illustrating that with an anecdote about George recently asking a mutual friend whether Jeb was planning to run. 

It's not as though the brothers dislike one another, the Times noted. But with a seven-year age difference and vastly different personalities, they simply don't talk a lot.


"You come away amazed that these two guys could be so different and be brothers," former George W. Bush administration official Jim Towey told the Times. "I love them both. But they’re just very different people."

George enjoys chatting people up – even playfully needling them to get a response — while Jeb prefers to make his way out of a crowded room toward solitude as quickly as possible.

George looks at the big picture. Jeb likes to get into the minutiae.

"Former President Bush is much more instantly gregarious, a bigger personality," Ari Fleischer told the Times of the ex-president he served as White House press secretary. "When he walks into a room, he just takes it over, by style and by charm. Jeb is more intellectual, more pensive and more articulate."

But George's big personality that is more likely to inspire love or hate, the Times said.

Though Jeb was always seen as the serious one and expected to follow the family business of politics, George takes more after their father, former President George H.W. Bush, in seeing public service as a calling. Jeb sees it more as a mission, said Clint Bolick, who co-authored a book on immigration with Jeb Bush.

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"I never really got the impression that either his dad or his brother were really motivated by ideas and policies," Bolick told the Times. "For Jeb, politics is a means to an end rather than an end in itself."

But the two are very much alike when it comes to policy.

The Times noted that Jeb in recent speeches hasn't indicated his presidency would vary much from his brother's. Nor has he hinted that he would second-guess him on the Iraq War or anything else.

They are conservative of abortion, gun rights, but more moderate on education and immigration.

"I never ran into any examples of where they have a difference in policy," said James K. Glassman, founding director of the George W. Bush Presidential Institute.

Both also are committed to their Christian faith, big on politics and sports fans. They both are punctual and impatient, and they hold their father on a pedestal.

Though a sibling rivalry existed when the two first ran for governorships – George in Texas, Jeb in Florida – it has faded with time. Eventually, it was Jeb's Florida that helped seal George's first White House win in a nasty recount.


It is their similarities that could be a political millstone for Jeb, as his brother was seen as unpopular in his second term because of his handling of the Iraq War.

George wants Jeb to run and is "really excited about it," one source told the Times. "I think Jeb is like, 'I could use your money, but if you just hide, that would be helpful.'"

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