George W. Bush returned to the frontline of American politics on Monday evening, coming to the aid of his brother Jeb's faltering White House bid with some jokes at his own expense and a thinly veiled attack on Donald Trump's "bluster".
Ahead of Saturday's South Carolina Republican primary, the former president joined his brother on stage at a rally. Jeb Bush is currently polling in fourth place behind Trump, Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Marco Rubio in the state.
Trump has launched strong attack on George W. Bush in recent days, accusing the former president of failing to keep the United States safe from terrorism given the September 11 attacks.
Without naming him directly, George W. Bush used his appearance on the campaign trail to attack Trump's "empty rhetoric".
Responding to the warm welcome from the crowd, George W. Bush summarised what he has been doing since leaving Washington in 2009.
"I've written two books, which surprised a lot of people," he said to laughter. "There's a lot of people up East who didn't think I could read, much less write."
In a nod to his most infamous gaffe, he added: "I've been wanting to defy expectations, I've been 'misunderestimated' most of my life."
And he noted the "real shock" to people was "I've become an oil painter".
Some of the jokes were more cheesy than others. Joined on stage by his wife, former First Lady Laura Bush, George W. Bush said the pair were "spending a lot of time on our ranch where we have become tree farmers" which he said "gives me a chance to practise my stump speech".
Trump used the Republican debate on Saturday to attack George W. Bush's record in office. "How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center came down? I lost hundreds of friends," Trump said. "The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush. He kept us safe? That is not safe."
The frontrunner for the Republican nomination also accused George W. Bush of having lied to the American people in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War.
Hitting back at Trump last night, George W. Bush told South Carolina voters: "I understand American's are angry and frustrated. But we do not need someone in the Oval Office who mirrors and enflames our anger and frustration. We need someone who can fix the problems that cause our anger and frustration and that's Jeb Bush".
He said the 2016 presidential race was "a serious election for a serious job" and the party needed a "serious and thoughtful candidate"
"I'd like to remind you and the voters what true strength means," he said. "Strength is not empty rhetoric, it is not bluster, it is not theatrics. Real strength of purpose comes from integrity and character."
Trump has sucked up much of the oxygen of the Republican race, dominating the TV coverage. George W. Bush said: "In my experience, the strongest person isn't usually the loudest person in the room."
Polls show that Trump has a sizable lead in the run-up to Saturday's primaries in South Carolina.