From Jonathan Martin and Matt Flegenheimer writing at The New York Times:
Former President George Bush, 91 and frail, is straining to understand an election season that has, for his son and the Republican Party, lurched sharply and stunningly off script. And he is often bewildered by what he sees.
“I’m getting old,” he tells friends, appraising today’s politics, “at just the right time.”
These are confounding days for the Bush family and the network of advisers, donors and supporters who have helped sustain a political dynasty that began with the Senate victory by Prescott Bush, the older Mr. Bush’s father, in Connecticut 63 years ago. They have watched the rise of Donald J. Trump with alarm, and seen how Jeb Bush, the onetime Florida governor, has languished despite early advantages of political pedigree and campaign money.
No one, it seems, is more perplexed than the family patriarch by the race, and by what the Republican Party has become in its embrace of anti-establishment outsiders, especially the sometimes rude Mr. Trump.
In July, even after breaking a vertebra in a fall that left him hospitalized in Maine, the elder Mr. Bush was fuming at the news of the day: Mr. Trump had belittled Sen. John McCain of Arizona for being taken prisoner in Vietnam.
“I can’t understand how somebody could say that and still be taken seriously,” said Mr. Bush, himself a naval aviator in World War II, according to his longtime spokesman, Jim McGrath, who had visited him.
Contempt for Mr. Trump runs deep in the clan. Two people interviewed, who are in direct communication with the elder Mr. Bush but requested anonymity to avoid betraying a confidence, said Mr. Trump had revived painful memories among the Bushes of another blunt populist: H. Ross Perot. The family has long believed Mr. Perot’s third-party candidacy helped Bill Clinton capture the White House from Mr. Bush in 1992.
And their father has been highly irritated by Mr. Trump’s ridicule. The former reality TV star has in recent weeks taunted both former President George W. Bush and Jeb over the Sept. 11 attacks.
“He is throwing shoes at the TV when his son gets attacked and insulted by our favorite candidate,” Jeb Bush joked, referring to his father and Mr. Trump, at a campaign stop in New Hampshire.