Former President George H.W. Bush acknowledges the crowd at his presidential library before his son former President George W. Bush discusses his new book "41: A Portrait of My Father" , on Nov. 11, 2014, in College Station, Texas.
Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune/AP

Team Trump complains about H.W. Bush’s ‘slap in the face’

Updated
There were some questions yesterday about whether or not former President George H.W. Bush really said he intends to vote for Hillary Clinton, but there are ample reasons to believe he did. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the original source of the news, confirmed the account to NBC News late yesterday.

What’s more, by some accounts, Bush made his election plans clear to “a room of roughly 40 people,” and the former president and his aides have made little effort to dispute the reports.

As of last night, Donald Trump’s campaign certainly gave every indication that it believes the story to be true – and went after H.W. Bush accordingly.
“If it is true that some of the Bushes are going to be supporting Hillary Clinton, then I think it really offers vindication for a lot of the tea party goers who felt like Republicans were starting to govern as Democrats,” Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson said on Fox News’s “The Kelly File.”

“The establishment is going to stick with the establishment,” she continued.

Pierson remarked on a situation where “you have Republicans in a record number turn out for Donald Trump and you have former leaders of the party just essentially slap them in the face.”
Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, seemed to think the former president’s age is worth emphasizing. “I respect the 92-year-old former president very much – and his decision,” Conway told CNN last night. “And I think Americans are very thankful to the Bush family for their service. That’s his right.”

We’ll never know for sure how various former presidents voted behind a closed curtain, but Bush’s apparent willingness to vote for the Democratic ticket is a sharp departure from modern history. The last time a former president broke party ranks after leaving office? Teddy Roosevelt in 1912: he didn’t support the Republican nominee (William Howard Taft) because Roosevelt himself ran unsuccessfully on a third-party ticket.

It’s unlikely Bush’s private comments will sway a significant number of voters – the former president is generally held in high public regard, but his national influence is limited – though it’s nevertheless a reminder that among Republican elder statesmen, Donald J. Trump is simply a bridge too far.

If the 2016 nominee is smart, he’ll ignore the news and focus his attention elsewhere – because if Trump goes after H.W. Bush directly, it will only make Trump appear even more like a petulant bully, while making Bush appear more sympathetic.

Postscript: It’s likely Trump also won’t enjoy the support of the former president’s wife. “He’s said terrible things about women, terrible things about the military,” former First Lady Barbara Bush said in February. “I don’t understand why people are for him.”


Donald Trump, George H. W. Bush and Hillary Clinton

Team Trump complains about H.W. Bush's 'slap in the face'

Updated