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The Bush dynasty – the modern Kennedys

The Bush dynasty – the modern Kennedys

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Bush family has included two presidents, two first ladies, a state governor and a senator George Bush Snr’s death underlines that while the Kennedys still remain the premier US political dynasty, the Bush family can also stake a claim to be up there on the top table. With…

An extended Bush family portrait 19 January 2005 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Bush family has included two presidents, two first ladies, a state governor and a senator

George Bush Snr’s death underlines that while the Kennedys still remain the premier US political dynasty, the Bush family can also stake a claim to be up there on the top table.

With a grandfather who served in the US Senate, a father and son as former occupants of the White House, and a third member a former state governor, the Republicans have a family to match the Democratic Party.

George Herbert Walker Bush was born into a wealthy family, the grandson of a steel industrialist, Samuel Prescott Bush, who was named to a national commission on the economy by President Herbert Hoover.

His father, Prescott Sheldon Bush, was a successful investment banker who became partner at his Wall Street firm, and became the first family member to enter politics.

He was elected to the Senate in 1952, where he was a staunch supporter of President Dwight Eisenhower.

Prescott’s connections and wealth helped his son, George H W Bush, make a fortune in the oil industry before he entered politics in the 1960s and eventually became the 41st president.

Florida

The initial efforts of President Bush’s eldest son, George W, to continue the dynasty, were not promising.

His father’s name assured his smooth passage into military school, Yale and the oil industry, but the failure of his various business ventures prompted him to spend more time in local bars than at his desk, complaining: “I’m all name but no money.”

If George H W was looking to pass on his political baton, a much more likely candidate at that stage was his son Jeb.

Jeb graduated from university after less than three years, while his marriage to the Mexican-born Columba, and his fluency in both English and Spanish, won over southern voters. In 1998, he became governor of Florida, an office he held until 2007.

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Jeb Bush was apparently horrified when he first heard of his elder brother’s first political campaign in Texas, in 1994, claiming they had become a “People magazine story”.

Jeb has weathered family problems, including his daughter’s drug abuse, and had always – back in those days, at least – shrugged off any questions about the “big job”, saying his only concern was “Florida, Florida, Florida”.

George H W’s two younger sons, Neil and Marvin, have also used their family name to go into business, but, so far, have shown little desire to enter politics.

Election cliffhanger

Instead, in a scene worthy of the soap opera Dallas, which made his state famous, it was the Texas-based prodigal son who rode in to claim the biggest share of the Bush legacy.

George W’s efforts to transform his life had already included giving up drink, committing himself to Christianity and family life, as well as becoming governor of Texas.

In 2000, he set his sights on emulating his father’s greatest achievement.

That November, after a vote-counting cliff-hanger, George W picked up his Stetson and retraced his father’s steps into the Oval Office.

His brother Jeb’s state of Florida determined the outcome of the 2000 presidential race, amid allegations of impropriety and vote-rigging.

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In his time at the White House, George W followed his father’s example. Both men dispatched task forces to the Gulf, but where the elder Bush let Saddam Hussein escape his clutches, the younger chased him into a hole.

When father and son spoke in turn at Reagan’s funeral, seldom had one family’s access and influence in Washington seemed so concrete and enduring.

And in late 2014, the former Florida governor Jeb Bush announced he was exploring a run at the White House, immediately raising the possibility of another Bush-Clinton rematch, this time with Bill’s wife, Hillary.

He was initially one of the Republican frontrunners but failed to shine and was eclipsed by Donald Trump.

Observers have not failed to notice yet another Bush son coming to the political fore. Jeb’s son, George Prescott Bush, first came to the public eye when his grandfather introduced him to President Reagan as “one of the little brown ones”, referring to his half-Mexican parentage.

He dipped his toes into the political water when he became co-founder of Hispanic Republicans of Texas, a pressure group aimed at getting more Hispanic candidates to seek political office in the state.

George P spoke at the National Republican Convention in 2000 and impressed viewers with his address in Spanish and English.

Then in 2014 he won his first election, becoming Texas Land Commissioner, thereby sealing the reputation of the Bush dynasty as a conveyor belt of political success stories.

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