Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at the Republican National Convention… (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty…)
TAMPA, Fla. – George W. Bush has not been much of a presence at the Republican National Convention, his two-term administration barely mentioned, but the former president got a prime-time shout-out from his younger brother, Jeb Bush, in an unscripted moment from center stage.
"My brother, well, I love my brother," the former Florida governor told the cheering crowd, opening his remarks by diverting from his scheduled talk on education.
"He is a man of integrity, courage and honor, and during incredibly challenging times, he kept us safe."
Drawing the former president into the convention poses risks for the party, as the GOP has tried to keep a safe political distance from that era. Two wars, mounting debt and the start of the Great Recession all have roots in the Bush presidency. And Republicans lost control of Congress during Bush's final term.
The administration has gotten barely a nod here in Tampa, even after former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke to the hall on Wednesday. A video tribute to his father had also aired that night, and Jeb Bush told the crowd he wanted to say something personal about his family.
But Jeb Bush then turned his attention to the current White House, echoing a theme from vice presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan's speech as he told President Obama to lay off his younger brother.
"Mr. President, it's time to stop blaming your predecessor.... You were dealt a tough hand, but your policies have not worked," he said. "A real leader would accept responsibility for his actions, and you haven’t done that."
Long a GOP favorite, Jeb Bush has been a hoped-for presidential contender, even as he has been critical of his party. On the eve of the convention, he took the party to task for its hard-line stance on immigration reform at a time when Republicans are struggling to attract Latino voters.
He spoke briefly in Spanish welcoming the crowd, and then returned to his education talk -- making the case for school choice to provide greater options to help students. "Now that I've got that off my chest, let's talk a little bit about kids and education," he said.
[FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this post referred to Jeb Bush as George W. Bush's older brother. Jeb is George's younger brother.]