George P. Bush: Born to Run?

George P. Bush, nephew of Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. George W. Bush, gestures as he speaks at the Republican National Convention in the First Union Center in Philadelphia, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2000. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

Years ago – who am I kidding, DECADES ago – I wrote the very first story about a young man named Bush who would one day run for president: Jeb Bush. I called it. The story was emphatic. “Born to Run,” the headline proclaimed. Jeb Bush appeared on the cover holding his son George P. Bush (as I dimly recall – there were also lots of American flags waving).

This ran in The Miami Herald’s legendary Tropic Magazine, back in the 1980s, when Gene Weingarten and Tom Shroder were editing it and Dave Barry was rapidly turning himself into the nation’s top humor columnist. The story is pre-Internet, but I can tell you the gist: George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Bush had a bunch of kids, and the one who seemed most interested in public life, and most likely to flourish in the political arena, was Jeb. He was head of the Dade County Republican Party back then. He worked in the private sector but clearly had ambitions for public office. He didn’t deny them.

The story referred to his older brother George as “George Jr.” I never quite grasped the nomenclature of the Bush clan. Whatever: That George was a struggling businessman with, as we learned later, a drinking habit. He just wasn’t part of the conversation.

Now I’m at the Improv Theater in Ybor City, watching George P. Bush, Jeb’s son, be interviewed on stage by Chuck Todd. George P. was just a kid when I interviewed his dad. I vaguely recall playing catch with him in the street outside the modest Bush house. Now George P. is a lawyer and entrepreneur. He’d get a ton of attention if he ever decided to run for public office. But the lesson of this story is that even the things you know for sure might not turn out to be true. Inevitability remains conjectural. In politics, anything can happen.

As you recall, “George Jr.” and Jeb both ran for governor of their respective states, Texas and Florida, but only the older brother won. Jeb later became governor of Florida, but by then the wheel of history had turned. George W. became president, and by the time he left office, there was no desire in the country for another Bush presidency.

I bumped into George P. Bush as he was headed to the elevator before today’s event, and reminded him of that magazine story I wrote long ago about his father. “Born to Run?” he asked. Yep, that one, about how his dad would run for president someday.

“Timing is everything,” George P. said with a smile.

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."
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