Former first lady Barbara Bush, says son Jeb is the most qualified Republican to run in 2016 but told NBC’s Today show, “We’ve had enough Bushes.”
Former president George W Bush takes the other side in the intra-family debate.
“He would be a marvellous candidate if he chooses to do so,” he told ABC News. “He doesn’t need my counsel because he knows what it is, which is: ‘run’. But whether he does or not is a very personal decision.”
Barbara Bush, known for her blunt talk, said of her second-born son: “There are other people out there that are very qualified ... He’s the most qualified but I don’t think he’ll run.”
The conflicting messages came as the 43rd president, who held office from 2001 to 2009, unveiled his presidential library in Dallas, accompanied by all the living US presidents, including his father, George H W Bush, who occupied the White House from 1989 through 1992.
The library opening highlights George W Bush’s two stormy terms, which included the Sep 11 attacks, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the 2008 financial crisis.
The event also puts the Bush family back in the spotlight at a time when the Republican Party is re-assessing following losses in the 2012 presidential campaign and is struggling to redefine itself.
Bush and his father have represented a more traditional side of the Republican Party, which now faces challenges from its more strident Tea Party wing.
Polls have shown Jeb Bush trailing other Republicans such as Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky, both favourites of the Tea Party movement.
A Public Policy Polling survey earlier this month found 12% of potential voters said they would most like to see Jeb as the Republican candidate in 2016, while Rubio topped out with 21%, followed by Paul with 17%.
John Adams (1797-1801) and John Quincy Adams (1825-1829) are the only other father and son to serve as US presidents.
Meanwhile profound ideological differences and a bitter history of blaming each other for the nation’s woes were giving way — if just for a day — to pomp and pleasantries as the five members of the most exclusive club in the world appeared publicly together for the first time in years.
For Bush, 66, the ceremony also marked his unofficial return to the public eye four years after the end of his deeply polarising presidency.
Among the foreign leaders who attended were former British prime minister Tony Blair and former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
With more than 70m pages of paper records, 200m emails, 4m digital photos and some 43,000 artifacts, Mr Bush’s library will feature the largest digital holdings of any of the 13 presidential libraries under the auspices of the National Archives and Records Administration, officials said.