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What George P. Bush’s endorsement of Donald Trump tells us about Republican politics

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“President Trump is the only thing standing between America and socialism,” Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, told The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday. He added that he would be voting for Trump in November; “it’s clear Republican policies are working,” the younger Bush told the paper.
That’s big news because, well, he is a Bush. And the Bushes, long the first family of Republican politics, aren’t exactly big fans of Trump. Jeb Bush announced in May 2016 that he would not vote for Trump in the general election after he lost to Trump in the 2016 primary — in which the billionaire repeatedly mocked the former governor as “low energy.” And in a 2019 interview with CNN’s David Axelrod, Jeb encouraged a primary challenge to Trump. “To have a conversation about what it is to be a conservative I think is important,” he said.
A recent New York Times report said that Jeb Bush remained undecided about whether to support Trump while his older brother, former President George W. Bush, would not be voting for Trump in 2020. (A spokesman for George Bush denied the report; “This is completely made up,” the spokesman said. “He is retired from presidential politics and has not indicated how he will vote.”)

Regardless of who the elder Bushes plan to vote for, there’s little debate that the family that has produced two of the last three Republican presidents doesn’t exactly see eye-to-eye with the current occupant of the White House — and vice versa.

Just last month, after George W. Bush released a video calling for national unity and shared sacrifice in the face on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Trump tweeted this:

“Oh bye (sic) the way, I appreciate the message from former President Bush, but where was he during Impeachment calling for putting partisanship aside.” @foxandfriends He was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest Hoax in American history!”

The hard feelings go way back — as Trump has long used the Bushes image as the ultimate insiders to burnish his own outsider credentials.

“We need another Bush in office about as much as we need Obama to have a 3rd term,” Trump tweeted back in 2013. “No more Bushes!”

As the 2016 campaign ramped up, Trump zeroed in on Jeb Bush, who was briefly considered the front-runner in the early days of the race, with relentless attacks on his family legacy.

“The war in Iraq was a big, fat mistake,” Trump said in a debate in February 2016. “They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none.”
The Bush family fought back. “(Trump) doesn’t give many answers to how he would solve problems,” Barbara Bush, the former first lady and mother of George and Jeb, told CNN in 2016. “He sort of makes faces and says insulting things. He’s said terrible things about women, terrible things about the military. I don’t understand why people are for him, for that reason.”

Trump, because he is Trump, never apologized for all of the things he said about Jeb and the Bush family during the primary. And the Bushes, while they were quieter about their distaste for Trump, never really backed down either.

So why then would George P. Bush not only say he plans to vote for Trump but also give a decidedly Trump-y quote — “President Trump is the only thing standing between America and socialism” — to a media organization? After all, Trump did repeatedly savage his father in deeply personal terms. And Trump retweeted (and then deleted) a tweet that read “#JebBush has to like the Mexican Illegals because of his wife” during the campaign as well. (Jeb Bush’s wife and George P. Bush’s mother, Columba, is of Mexican descent.)

The answer? Politics, pure and simple.

George P. Bush is in statewide office now. (Yes, Land Commissioner is an elected statewide office in Texas!) He has his eye on running for governor one day. While Texas does not term limit its governors, Gov. Greg Abbott will have spent eight years in office come 2022 and may have his eye on running for the open Republican presidential nomination in 2024. There’s already a lineup of ambitious Republicans ready and waiting to run if that happens — or if Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick either retires or decides to run for an open governor’s seat. And Bush very much wants to be in the mix for either of those offices.
And the simple fact — that George P. knows — is that there is NO conceivable path to the Republican nomination for governor or lieutenant governor in Texas as anything less than a vocal Trump supporter and voter. For all his troubles with the broader electorate — in Texas and nationally — Trump remains an absolutely revered figure among Texas Republicans, and it’s very hard to imagine that changing between now and 2022, even if the President comes up short in his bid for a second term this November.

It’s also not just that voters would rebel against George P. It’s that Trump would relish the chance — whether in office or out of office — to stick it to the Bush family one more time by working to keep George P. from winning a higher statewide office. (If you don’t think Trump is vindictive enough to do just that, let me refer you to, well, his entire life.) So George P. is doing the only thing he can do to preserve his political future: Standing in absolute lockstep with Trump.

In doing so, George P. is backing a man who spent more than a year personally attacking his father, mother, uncle and grandfather at every turn.

Ah, politics. Not for the faint of heart. Or stomach.

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