Mr. Trump was never as harsh publicly about the patriarch of the Bush family as he was about its other members, but more than once in recent months, he mocked a famous phrase from the former president’s 1989 inaugural address, “a thousand points of light,” which Mr. Bush used to describe Americans coming together as volunteers to improve their communities and their country.
“What the hell was that, by the way, thousand points of light?” he asked an appreciative crowd at a campaign rally in Great Falls, Montana, in July. “What did that mean? Does anyone know? I know one thing: Make America great again, we understand. Putting America first, we understand. Thousand points of light, I never quite got that one.”
Two months later, he returned to that theme. “It’s so easy to be presidential,” Mr. Trump said at a campaign rally in Wheeling, W.Va. “But instead of having 10,000 people outside trying to get into this packed arena, we’d have about 200 people standing right there. O.K.? It’s so easy to be presidential. All I have to do is ‘Thank you very much for being here, ladies and gentlemen. It’s great to see you off — you’re great Americans. Thousand points of light.’ Which nobody has really figured out.”
“And in the meantime,” he added, “everything’s going to be dying, and your coal and everything else. No, no. We got to keep it going the way it’s going. Do we agree? Do we agree?”
For his part, Mr. Bush was never impressed by Mr. Trump. “I don’t like him,” Mr. Bush told the historian Mark K. Updegrove in May 2016. “I don’t know much about him, but I know he’s a blowhard. And I’m not too excited about him being a leader.” Rather than being motivated by public service, Mr. Bush said, Mr. Trump seemed to be driven by “a certain ego.”
But he recognized that Mr. Trump was at the forefront of change. “I’m worried that I will be the last Republican president,” he told Mr. Updegrove, who later wrote “The Last Republicans” about Mr. Bush and George W. Bush.