U.S. President George W. Bush (L) is introduced by his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, at a fundraiser in Orlando, Fla., on Feb. 17, 2006.
Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

Jeb Bush breaks with George W. Bush on deficits


CONCORD, N.H. – Jeb Bush criticized President George W. Bush’s management of the federal budget on Thursday, a rare break from the brother he has fiercely defended throughout the early election cycle.

Bush was responding to a question from a voter at sports bar in Concord, who asked – in light of his reluctance to criticize the last Republican president on Iraq last week – for “an example of an issue where there is big space” between the two siblings.

“Are there differences? Yeah, sure,” Bush replied. “I think in Washington during my brother’s time Republicans spent too much money.”

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It’s a complaint that’s widely accepted as conventional wisdom in conservative circles, where a driving force behind early tea party rallies was a sense that they had failed to call out rising spending and deficits, much of which occurred under a Republican House and Senate. Bush made clear on Thursday that the fault belonged to the White House as well as Congress.

“I think he could have used the veto power, he didn’t have line item veto power, but he could have brought budget discipline to Washington, DC,” Bush said. “Now, that seems kind of quaint right now given the fact that after he left budget deficits and spending just went up astronomically, but having constraints on spending across the board during this time would have been a good thing.”

Bush added that there were “other things, I’m sure” that he disagreed with during his brother’s administration but that he would not make them a point of emphasis.

“I don’t feel compelled to go out of my way to criticize Republican presidents,” Bush said. “I don’t know, just call me a team player here. Just so happens the last two Republican presidents happen to be my dad and my brother, but you’ll never hear me complain about Ronald Reagan either. Every president makes mistakes, the question is what do you do, what do you learn from those mistakes?”