Pa­tri­arch Ge­orge H.W. Bush leaves be­hind a fam­ily bet­ter known for build­ing a po­lit­i­cal dy­nasty than for pol­icy or ide­ol­ogy


Bush leaves be­hind a fam­ily bet­ter known for build­ing a po­lit­i­cal dy­nasty than for pol­icy or ide­ol­ogy.

The Kennedys had their New Eng­land coastal hide­away in Hyan­nis Port, a Camelot-like mys­tique and a po­lit­i­cal god­fa­ther in Joseph P. Kennedy.

For the coun­try’s other po­lit­i­cal dy­nasty — the Bushes — it was a sum­mer home in Ken­neb­unkport, Maine, and the West Texas oil patch that cre­ated a mix of Yale blue-blood and back­coun­try cow­boy, and their own pa­tri­arch in Ge­orge H.W. Bush.

Bush, who died late Fri­day at age 94, was a Sec­ond World War hero, a Texas con­gress­man, the di­rec­tor of the CIA, vice-pres­i­dent and even­tu­ally pres­i­dent. His son, Ge­orge W., served as Texas gover­nor and two terms in the White House.

Though an­other son, for­mer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, turned mon­ster fundrais­ing into an em­bar­rass­ingly short-lived 2016 pres­i­den­tial run — his cam­paign evis­cer­ated by Don­ald Trump — the fam­ily’s fu­ture po­lit­i­cal prow­ess re­mains in­tact, in­clud­ing with Jeb’s 42-year-old son, Ge­orge P. Bush, who is seen as a ris­ing GOP star by Repub­li­can power­bro­kers na­tion­wide. He cur­rently is Texas land com­mis­sioner, lead­ing a pow­er­ful state agency that over­sees min­eral rights crit­i­cal to oil and nat­u­ral gas ex­plo­ration on Texas’ 13 mil­lion acres of pub­lic land.

“I think when peo­ple hear the name Ge­orge H.W. Bush they think of the word ‘states­man,’’’ Ge­orge P. Bush told The As­so­ci­ated Press in 2013. “And I think his ca­reer re­ally rep­re­sents a gen­er­a­tion that many Amer­i­cans now and in the fu­ture will con­sider our coun­try’s great­est gen­er­a­tion.’’

Some his­to­ri­ans re­gard Ge­orge H.W. Bush as more-bi­par­ti­san than his pres­i­den­tial suc­ces­sors — and his softer-spo­ken, hum­bler style is a far cry from Trump. Bush is also re­mem­bered as end­ing the Cold War, though he also in­vaded Panama and brought Amer­ica to war for the first time against Sad­dam Hus­sein.

But defin­ing an over­all Bush fam­ily po­lit­i­cal legacy gets tougher, though, when con­sid­er­ing that Ge­orge W. Bush led the Iraq War in 2003, ac­cus­ing Hus­sein of hav­ing non-ex­is­tent weapons of mass de­struc­tion. And while the el­der Bush’s 1992 re-elec­tion bid was marred by his reneg­ing on his “Read my lips: No new taxes’’ pledge, the younger Bush presided over a fi­nan­cial cri­sis that trig­gered the Great Re­ces­sion.

Russ Baker, au­thor of “Fam­ily of Se­crets,’’ a bi­og­ra­phy of the Bushes, said the fam­ily is bet­ter known for build­ing an en­dur­ing po­lit­i­cal dy­nasty than for their pol­icy or ide­ol­ogy, es­pe­cially by fol­low­ing the lead of Ge­orge H.W. Bush and his wife of 73 years, Bar­bara, who died in April 2018.

“They meet peo­ple and they all know to col­lect the name of ev­ery per­son you ever meet. Grand­fa­ther and grand­mother had a Christ­mas card list of 40,000,’’ Baker said in 2017.

“The Bush fam­ily are the great­est ever at lever­ag­ing their com­mu­nal fam­ily as­sets. Bet­ter, I be­lieve, then even the Kennedys,’’ he added. “They are masters, they all get it. They un­der­stand this is what they are sup­posed to do.’’

De­vel­op­ing pow­er­ful friends across busi­ness and pol­i­tics has helped the fam­ily build and main­tain a large net­work of na­tional Repub­li­can donors that has con­tin­ued to sup­port the Bushes through its re­volv­ing cast of can­di­dates.

Be­yond fundrais­ing, though, Ge­orge H.W. Bush earned en­tree into the Mex­i­can oil busi­ness in the 1960s af­ter first meet­ing an ex­ec­u­tive from that coun­try at a Texas A&M foot­ball game. Fam­ily ties to fi­nanciers helped Jeb Bush get his start in Florida real es­tate in the 1980s, and con­nec­tions aided in Ge­orge W. Bush’s be­com­ing part owner of the Texas Rangers from 1989 un­til be­ing elected Texas gover­nor in 1994.

Jeb Bush, who built his ca­reer in Florida rather than the East Coast or Texas, also brought a mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism to the fam­ily that didn’t serve him well in a na­tion­al­is­tic-minded 2016 cam­paign dom­i­nated by Trump but an­other di­men­sion to the Bush clan. His wife, Columba, was born in Mex­ico, and Jeb and Ge­orge P. Bush like to chat in Span­ish.

Still, Ge­orge H.W. Bush, while vice-pres­i­dent in 1998, in­tro­duced Ge­orge P. and Jeb’s other chil­dren to Pres­i­dent Ronald Rea­gan as the “lit­tle brown ones.’’ Bush sub­se­quently bris­tled at sug­ges­tions that was racist, say­ing his heart con­tained “noth­ing but pride and love’’ for his grand­chil­dren.

The Bush fam­ily has for more than a cen­tury helped shape the Amer­i­can busi­ness and en­ergy sec­tors, as well as pol­i­tics.

Born dur­ing the Civil War, Sa­muel Prescott Bush was Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s grand­fa­ther and built the fam­ily for­tune as a rail­road and steel mag­nate, mostly in Ohio. His son, Prescott Shel­don Bush, was a Yale grad­u­ate and in­vest­ment banker twice elected to the U.S. Se­nate from Con­necti­cut. He left of­fice in 1963, the same year John F. Kennedy was as­sas­si­nated and the year af­ter Teddy Kennedy was elected sen­a­tor from Mas­sachusetts.

Ge­orge H.W. Bush also went to Yale, but to make his own name for him­self apart from past Bush suc­cesses, he headed to Texas and the oil busi­ness — be­fore be­ing elected to Congress from Hous­ton in 1966.

Ge­orge P. Bush — the “P’’ stands for Prescott — went to Afghanistan as a Navy Re­serve in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer. He later ac­com­plished some­thing no one else in the fam­ily ever had in 2014: he won the first po­lit­i­cal race he ever en­tered in se­cur­ing Texas’ land com­mis­sion­er­ship.

Ge­orge H.W. Bush lost his first race in pol­i­tics, for the U.S. Se­nate from Texas in 1964. Four­teen years later, Ge­orge W. Bush was de­feated in his first race, for a West Texas con­gres­sional seat, and Jeb Bush was un­suc­cess­ful in his first Florida gu­ber­na­to­rial bid in 1994. Even Prescott Shel­don Bush came up short in his first his bid for po­lit­i­cal of­fice, when he ran for the U.S. Se­nate in 1950.

Ge­orge P. Bush, the only mem­ber of his fam­ily to cam­paign for Trump af­ter his fa­ther dropped out of the race, largely shrugs off ques­tions about his fam­ily dy­nasty and his re­spon­si­bil­ity for keep­ing it alive po­lit­i­cally. His fa­ther’s 2016 loss could also alleviate some of the po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ti­cal pres­sures that might other­wise have ham­pered his fu­ture ca­reer.

He said that for­mer first lady Bar­bara Bush made clear that fam­ily mem­bers wouldn’t be able to coast on their last name alone. “It’s al­ways been the thing of my grand­mother to, ‘Go out and make a name for your­self,’’’ Bush said in 2013.

He char­ac­ter­ized the fam­ily credo as: “Ser­vice to oth­ers, giv­ing back when­ever you can, count­ing your bless­ings and be­ing good to those who are good to you.’’


In April 2018, for­mer U.S. pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, who died on Fri­day, was ac­com­pa­nied by fam­ily mem­bers as pall­bear­ers car­ried the cas­ket of for­mer first lady Bar­bara Bush. The Bush pa­tri­arch leaves be­hind a fam­ily bet­ter known for build­ing an en­dur­ing po­lit­i­cal dy­nasty than for their pol­icy or ide­ol­ogy.


In this 1947 photo, Ge­orge H.W. Bush is shown as cap­tain of the Yale base­ball team, in New Haven, Conn. Bush played in the first-ever Col­lege World Se­ries in 1947.


In this June 5, 1989 photo, U.S. Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush holds a news con­fer­ence at the White House in Wash­ing­ton.

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