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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Explained: Why George Prescott Bush is making the headlines

George Prescott Bush was born into a family dynasty that rivals political heavyweights like the Kennedys and the Gandhis in India. While he would be continuing a four-generation long family legacy in politics, what actually made the headlines has been his willingness to embrace Donald Trump.

Written by Mira Patel , Edited by Explained Desk | Mumbai |
Updated: June 5, 2021 9:09:48 am
George P Bush speaks during a campaign event in 2015. (The New York Times: Stephen Crowley)

Republican George Prescott Bush Wednesday revealed that he would be contesting elections for the post of Texas State Attorney General. While he would be continuing a four-generation long family legacy in politics, what actually made the headlines has been his willingness to embrace Donald Trump. The rest of his family has famously condemned the former president.

George Prescott Bush was born into a family dynasty that rivals political heavyweights like the Kennedys and the Gandhis in India. His father Jeb Bush was the governor of Florida from 1998 to 2007, later competing in the 2016 Republican Presidential Primaries, only to be ridiculed and defeated by the eventual winner, Trump. His uncle, George W Bush, was the 43rd president of the United States, holding office from 2001 to 2009, notably during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. His grandfather and George and Jeb’s father, George H W Bush, was the 41st president of the United States, serving for one term between 1989 and 1993. His father Prescott Sheldon Bush, in turn, was a prominent businessman, who entered politics when he was elected to the US Senate in 1952 as a representative from Connecticut.

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Following in his family’s footsteps, George Prescott Bush (or George P) began his foray into politics at the age of 12. His first taste of the spotlight was when his grandfather introduced him to president Reagan, describing him as “one of the little brown ones,” in reference to his Latino heritage from his mother’s side. Handsome, articulate and multicultural, George P was poised to be the next famous Bush politician. However, during his early days, many feared that he would be the black sheep of the family instead.

In 1993, when his father launched an unsuccessful bid for the Florida governorship, George P was struggling academically in his first semester at Rice University. His reputation was also tarnished by an episode in which he tried to break into his ex-girlfriend’s house, only to be caught by her father and subsequently detained by the police. Following those early speed bumps however, George P seemingly turned his life around. After graduating from Rice, he taught history at a public school in Florida and later studied law in Texas. He went on to practice corporate law in the state and then got married and had two children. Later, he formed his own real-estate private equity firm before serving a year in Afghanistan with the US Navy.

When he finally entered politics in 2014, George P won his first election, becoming Texas Land Commissioner and continuing the legacy of the Bush dynasty. As Land Commissioner, George P announced a full-scale renovation of the Alamo, a historic site commemorating the war between Texas and Mexico. The move did not go down well with right-wing critics, but Bush stood his ground, eliciting surprised praise from many Democrats who interpreted his actions as him being willing to stand up to the extremes of the Republican Party. Those hopes proved to be short-lived and in 2016, George P became the first and only Bush to endorse then-candidate Trump in the presidential election.

George P. Bush, left, former first lady Barbara Bush, and former president George Bush in Miami. (The New York Times: Vincent Laforet, File)

As early as 2016, the Bush family were already firmly in camp #NeverTrump. Insults had been traded on both sides. In line with his personality, Trump’s assessment of the Bush family was far more scathing than their selection of words for him. Even before he announced his candidacy, in 2013, Trump tweeted “no more Bushes!” in reaction to Jeb Bush’s rise within the Republican ranks. Throughout the primaries, Trump attacked Jeb Bush, calling him “low energy” and accusing him of liking “the Mexican illegals because of his wife” — Jeb’s wife and George P’s mother is from Mexico but immigrated to the United States legally.

Trump also heavily criticised George W Bush for his invasion of Iraq, calling it a “big, fat mistake” that president Bush justified by lying to the American public. In response to that accusation, an exasperated Jeb Bush finally exclaimed that he was “sick and tired” of Trump going after his family. Even Barbara Bush, the wife of George H W Bush, jumped into the fray, describing Trump as someone who “sort of makes faces and says insulting things” without giving “many answers to how he would solve problems.”

However, if his family’s opinion was firmly against Trump, George P seemed to think quite differently. At a Texas GOP gathering, Bush told reporters that although “it was a bitter pill to swallow,” he had to stand behind Trump’s bid for the presidency in order to stop Clinton from winning it. In 2020, George P endorsed Trump again, calling him “the only thing standing between America and socialism” despite his father and uncle, both former Republicans, stating that they would not vote for Trump in the election. More recently, George P doubled down on his support for Trump and openly coveted the former president’s endorsement in his bid to usurp the current Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. At his campaign kick-off event, he even featured a quote from Trump that openly criticised the rest of the Bush family. It read, “This is the only Bush that likes me! This is the Bush that got it right. I like him.” Speaking to Politico, a former Trump aide praised this strategy, stating, “George P has played this exactly right.”

Many agree with that assessment. As the only member of the Bush family currently in office, George P knows that he, unlike the rest, benefits from keeping Trump on his good side. The former president is still extremely popular amongst Republicans and won Texas emphatically in the 2020 election. George P’s opponent, Paxton, is already a fervent Trump supporter and had backed the former president’s attempts to get Biden’s election victory overturned. Trump has not yet endorsed either candidate, but presumably, whoever he does endorse will have a significant advantage in the Attorney General Race.

George P is by no means the first politician or even the first Texan to succumb to Trump’s bidding. Fellow Texan, Republican Senator Ted Cruz recently courted Trump, visiting him at his Mar-a-Lago resort in May. Cruz’s support is particularly disturbing, given that in 2016, Trump suggested that his wife was ugly and floated a conspiracy theory that his father had been involved in the assassination of JFK. Some also argue that George P’s willingness to accommodate Trump is in line with his family’s history of adopting whichever conservative platform was most likely to get them elected. His grandfather for example was a staunch supporter of Planned Parenthood and family planning before entering higher office. However, when he ran for the Presidency in 1980, George H W Bush switched tracks and offered himself forward as a pro-life candidate to appeal to conservative voters.

In 2019, George P told The Atlantic that he had no choice but to support Trump, because he “couldn’t look grassroots activists in the face and say ‘well, Trump is good enough for you, but not for me’.” He also affirmed that his father understood his decision and uncle, though harder to convince, eventually came around in the end. It is unclear what they think of his shift from a reluctant Trump supporter to someone handing out Trump branded merchandise at election rallies.

Mira Patel is an intern with indianexpress.com

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