Shortly after George H.W. Bush became president, the furniture store Ikea ran an advertisement on the side of Washington D.C. buses: “Nancy Reagan style at Barbara Bush prices.” Most other first ladies would have taken such a slight to heart. The record suggests that Barbara Bush, who has always distinguished herself by being who she is and saying what she means, probably took it in passing.
“Please notice: Hairdo, makeup, designer dress,” she told reporters at an inaugural event at the Kennedy Center around the same time, according to Pamela Kilian’s book, Barbara Bush: Matriarch of a Dynasty. “Look at me this week because this is the only week you are ever going to see it.”
That was always her thing: Be exactly who she was and not be afraid to show it. And she has not changed. In an interview Thursday with NBC‘s Today show, she was asked if her son Jeb should run for President in 2016. “He’s by far the most qualified man,” she said. “But no.” And she didn’t stop there. “I think it’s a great country,” she continued. “There are a lot of great families, and it’s not just four families or whatever. There are other people out there that are very qualified. We’ve had enough Bushes.” To top it off she added, “He’ll get all our enemies and half our friends.”
Barbara Bush met her husband when he was 16. She says she married the first boy she ever kissed. But she never gave up her independence. In the 1992 Presidential campaign, she said that the Republican Party should not take a position on abortion and homosexuality, arguing that they were personal matters. “I hate abortion but could just not make that decision for somebody else,” she went on to say.
Jeb Bush, who recently made the rounds to promote a policy book on immigration, has clearly been making an effort to keep his name in contention for 2016, even though he has yet to signal his intention. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 10% of Republicans and voters who lean towards the GOP favor Bush for the 2016 nomination, placing him behind Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Paul Ryan, who poll at 19%, Sen. Rand Paul, who polls at 15% and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who polls at 14%. Polling three years ahead is rarely predictive of how presidential nomination races shake out.
As for Barbara Bush, her opinions are likely to stir the pot for few more news cycles. The lasting impact, however, may have less to do with her own son’s intentions, if her thinking catches on. The argument she made against Jeb Bush running works just as well against Hillary Clinton, who by contrast is likely the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination in 2016, if she runs. If either a Bush or a Clinton occupy the White House in 2016 one of those families will hold office of the presidency or vice presidency for forty years, with the exception of Obama’s two terms, in one of which a Clinton served as Secretary of State.
This is also not the first time in recent years that Barbara Bush has weighed in on who should be the next Presidential nominee for the Republican Party. In 2010, she was asked about Sarah Palin. “I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful, and I think she’s very happy in Alaska,” Bush said, before adding, “and I hope she’ll stay there.”