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George H.W. Bush: Mitt Romney would be 'a very good president'

In an interview with Larry King, the former president expresses support for the onetime Massachusetts governor. Barbara Bush agrees, saying she hopes Sarah Palin stays in Alaska.

November 24, 2010|By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau
  • Asked if he had a favorite in the GOP field, Bush stipulated that he hasn't met many of the potential contenders, but that he likes Romney.
Asked if he had a favorite in the GOP field, Bush stipulated that he hasn't… (LM Otero / Associated Press )

Reporting from Washington — If his son won't be on the ballot, former President George H. W. Bush says he could support Mitt Romney for his party's nomination for president in 2012.

As for Barbara Bush -- put her in the "Anybody but Palin" camp.

The 41st president claims he's long quit politics, but he did offer his thoughts on a range of subjects during an interview with Larry King, the suspender-clad host who is retiring after a quarter of a century on CNN.

So did his wife, who was characteristically blunt when asked what she thought of Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor who now dominates the conversation about the Republican presidential race.

"I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful, and I think she's very happy in Alaska. And I hope she'll stay there," she said.

The former president said he would like to see another of his sons, onetime Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, make a run at the Oval Office, but that he just doesn't want to do it.

"In fact, I know he's not" thinking about it, Bush told King. "But, would he be a good president? Absolutely. Don't just take that from a father-prejudice view."

Asked if he had a favorite in the GOP field, Bush stipulated that he hasn't met many of the potential contenders, but that he likes Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts who made a run in 2008.

King offered that Romney was in line with Bush's brand of Republicanism. "Don't want to kill him off," Bush joked in response.

"He's a reasonable guy. A conservative fellow, which is good. But, no, I think he'd be a good president, a very good president."

Barbara Bush agreed, saying she liked people "who feel that you can respect other people's ideas."

Asked about the current president, Bush said Barack Obama has "been very pleasant to me personally," and called him a "decent, decent man."

"He's taken a lot of heat lately. But that goes with the territory," he said. "Some are down on him today, although his numbers aren't bad."

As for his other son, the elder Bush said history would look kindly on former President George W. Bush, including his decision to launch a war with Iraq.

" Saddam Hussein is no longer around. And that in itself makes it the right thing," he said.

He also talked about his warm relationship with the man who defeated him in 1992, former President Clinton.

"We have a close, friendly, personal relationship, and he's been extraordinarily kind to me," Bush said.

His wife said she thought Clinton "wishes he had a father like George."

"It took me a little while, I confess," she said of her own admiration for Clinton. "But you can't dislike Bill Clinton. He's very likable. And he was so good to George."

King asked Bush what he thought of the "tea party" movement. He claimed to be "confused by it."

"I don't know what it really is, Larry," he said. "Some of the ideas make a lot of sense. … But nobody has ever been to see me, [saying] 'We represent the tea party.'"

In the rare interview, Bush told King that he's been slowed down by "Parkinsonitis," but still planned to skydive again on his 90th birthday in four years.

"It's all set," he said.

mmemoli@tribune.com

twitter.com/mikememoli

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