That episode, foundational to Bush family lore, came to mind as George P. Bush, the son of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, launched his bid for Texas attorney general last week. It was rich for the great-grandson of a senator, the grandson of a president, the nephew of another president and the son of a governor to decry the “elite” during his first commercial. But other politicians before him have tried to play down their fancy pedigrees.
More revealing — and more disappointing — was that even as the 45-year-old made no reference to his storied family, he lavished praise on a man who has humiliated them. Politics ain’t beanbag, but does it really require this?
Donald Trump did his best to embarrass Jeb Bush during the Republican primaries in 2016, famously branding him “low energy.” George P, as the family calls him, is now embarrassing himself by cravenly groveling for Trump’s endorsement in the GOP primary against incumbent Ken Paxton.
The swag available at P’s kickoff rally, held Wednesday in an Austin bar, included red beer koozies emblazoned with a 2018 quote from Trump: “This is the only Bush that likes me! This is the Bush that got it right. I like him.” Last month, P tweeted a picture of himself on the phone with Trump and announced he would back Trump for president in 2024 if he runs again.
A Trump adviser who has spoken to the former president about P told Politico that Trump’s pet name for him is “My Bush.” Another Trump confidant added that he “enjoys the prospect of knowing how much it kills Jeb that his son has to bend the knee and kiss the ring. Who’s your daddy? Trump loves that.”
Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, likened P’s solicitation of Trump to “the Starks bending the knee to the Lannisters” in “Game of Thrones.”
To understand why that’s not hyperbole, recall the history: Barbara Bush detested Trump long before he went after her sons. In the 1990s, the former first lady wrote in her diary that Trump epitomized “greed, selfishness and ugly.” Before she died in 2018, P’s grandmother kept a clock beside her bed that counted down the days until the end of Trump’s term.
After Jeb Bush dropped out of the presidential contest, P quickly capitulated and sought to curry favor with the charlatans who hijacked his family’s party. Trump returned the favor by backing P’s reelection as Texas land commissioner in 2018. But Donald Trump Jr. canceled a New York fundraiser for P that year after former first lady Laura Bush, P’s aunt, decried Trump’s “immoral” child-separation policy.
Asked Friday on Fox News Radio about Trump’s nastiness toward his family, P said the Bushes understand “the rough and tumble of politics” better than anyone. “The stakes are too high to let a mean tweet get in the way,” he said. “Dad gets it.”
Bush attacked Paxton during the interview for “only” having four prosecutors focused on finding voter fraud, which he called “unacceptable” and promised to be more “proactive.” Trump said in a statement that he likes both men “very much” and that he’ll endorse “in the not-so-distant future.”
P’s defenders say sucking up to Trump is the only way to climb in today’s GOP. Certainly, he isn’t the Lone Star State’s only profile in cowardice: Sen. Ted Cruz (R) has spent five years ingratiating himself to Trump after his former rival mocked his wife’s appearance and insinuated his father was implicated in the John F. Kennedy assassination.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the daughter of his uncle’s vice president, shows there’s a nobler path. Notably, P endorsed the move to depose her as House GOP conference chair. Which brings to mind a question that would resonate with Prescott Bush were he to consider the behavior of his great-grandson: At long last, have you left no sense of decency?