(Atlantic, IA) Former President George Bush spoke to a packed house in Atlantic Thursday at a schoolhouse rally organized by his son’s presidential campaign, and the elder Bush offered an assessment of his son’s character.

“We support our son, not on issues, but on his character, what I know of him as a dad. My belief that he is qualified and competent to lead this country based on my own experience as President, but much more, based on my experience as a father,” Bush said.

In December, critics charged Bush’s son, George W., was a mental lightweight and not up to debating his challengers. That dig has died down a bit, but daddy Bush sought to squelch it.

“I think he’s strong enough to take this…but I also think that goes with the territory. I was in four national campaigns. If he can’t take the heat, as Truman said, then get out of the kitchen,” the former President

Bush stopped at his son’s Iowa campaign headquarters Thursday afternoon, admonishing staffers to “look busy” as he walked toward a table where phone calls were being made to supporters. The former candidate sat down to work the phones himself.

“Just making a few random calls and just hoping you can vote for my son,” Bush said during one call.

Another call was answered by a 15 year old eastern Iowa girl who obviously thought she was party to a practical joke.

“I think she hung up on me,” Bush said as he handed the phone to an aide.

Bush won Iowa’s Caucuses in 1980, a win which catapulted him into the Vice Presidency. Then, in 1988, Bush finished third in Iowa, behind Bob Dole and Pat Robertson, but he went on to win the Presidency that year.