KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — In a rare face-to-face interview about his son's presidential campaign, former President George Bush said Friday that Gov. George W. Bush would emerge victorious in November largely because American voters periodically craved change and because President Clinton's conduct in office had sharpened that appetite.
Former President Bush, who sat with his wife, Barbara, for a nearly hourlong interview at the family compound here, said that Vice President Al Gore's ties to Clinton would not allow him to present himself credibly as a fresh start, and that George W. Bush's ability to do so would prove decisive.
The former president also cited that same cyclical impulse in the electorate as the reason he was defeated in 1992, after one term in office, by Clinton. "I think I was the victim of people wanting change," said Bush, who served as vice president under President Ronald Reagan for two terms before winning the presidency in 1988. He described voters' sentiments in 1992 as "eight years of Reagan, four years of Bush, we want a change."
"And I think the same thing is true now," he said. "I think people kind of like change, like the idea of change from time to time. I think that works for George's benefit."
He and Barbara Bush also said that that they thought the notion of "Clinton fatigue" was real and that their son's frequent pledge to "restore honor and integrity" to the Oval Office was one that would resonate with voters who felt that those virtues had indeed been compromised under Clinton.
Aides said that the Bushes' joint interview Friday was one of only three or four they had done over the past year, and their comments were striking for several reasons, chief among them the way in which George Bush interpreted both his and his son's presidential fortunes in terms of historic forces outside their control.
The former president and the former first lady also spoke more harshly of Clinton's behavior in office than they had usually allowed themselves to in the past. And while they and the Texas governor have flatly dismissed suggestions that his candidacy was an act of redemption and revenge, his parents' words and demeanor — especially his mother's' — suggested that they had not left 1992 completely behind them.
At the very least, they indicated a sensitivity to George Bush's legacy. Barbara Bush, almost as an aside, murmured that the good economy now was really her husband's doing.