In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, former President George W. Bush said he hopes his brother Jeb runs for president, and that Russian leader Vladimir Putin “changed” when the price of oil went up.
“I — you know, I hope Jeb runs,” Bush said in the interview, which was televised Thursday. “I think he would be a great president. I have no clue what’s on his mind. And we’ll talk when he’s ready.”
Bush also said he expects his brother, who was Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, will make a decision about whether to run for president in 2016 after the midterm elections in November.
“I can guarantee he’s not looking at a poll to decide whether or not he wants to run,” Bush said of his brother, who has been polling well against other prospective Republican candidates and is considered a favorite among big-money GOP donors.
“It’s an internal — he’s checking — he’s checking his core,” Bush added. “And as he said publicly, I think about my family. And of course he knows full well what a run for the presidency can do on family after he’s seen his dad and his brother run for president.”
In 2012, New York magazine reported that Jeb Bush’s “troubled” family was a central reason he opted not to seek the Republican nomination against what was widely regarded as a weak GOP field. His Mexican-born wife, Columba, is said to be uncomfortable playing the part of a political wife, and their daughter struggled with drug addiction while he was governor.
In the interview, the former President Bush also pushed back on the idea that he had “misjudged” Putin, with whom he shared a rather close relationship early in his administration. Shortly after taking office in 2001, Bush famously proclaimed Putin “straightforward and trustworthy,” saying he was able “get a sense of the soul” of the former KGB agent.
“I think [Putin] changed,” Bush told Tapper. “And of course, a president should open the door and give people a chance, except for the despicable tyrants. And he was not, at that time, he was — he looked like he wanted to be, you know, work with the West… And then price of oil went up. And Vladimir Putin changed.”
The spike in the price of oil, which brought a massive influx of cash into both Russia and Putin’s personal coffers, “emboldened him to follow in his game that pretty much zero-sum, you know, I win and you lose and vice versa,” Bush said.
Bush, who once owned the Texas Rangers, also touched on Donald Sterling, the L.A. Clippers owner who was caught on tape making a racist rant and subsequently suspended for life by the NBA.
“You know, I’ll be interested to see how it plays out,” Bush told Tapper. “Obviously, his comments were despicable.”
Bush has kept a low profile since leaving office and rarely grants interviews to the press. The interview with Tapper was designed to publicize Bush’s W100k bike race and his efforts to improve the lives of America’s veterans, particularly those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.