The rout of presidential scion George P. Bush in the Lone Star A.G. race would seem to mark the end of a woebegone American story.
WASHINGTON – JANUARY 6: President George W. Bush, first lady Laura Bush, former first lady Barbara Bush and former President George H.W. Bush sit surrounded by family in the Red Room of the White House January 6, 2005 in Washington, DC. Friends and family joined former President Bush and Barbara Bush in celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary at a dinner. Also pictured are: (L to R) Georgia Grace Koch, Margaret Bush, Walker Bush, Marvin Bush, Jenna Bush, Doro Koch, Barbara Bush, Robert P. Koch, Pierce M. Bush, Maria Bush, Neil Bush, Ashley Bush, Sam LeBlond, Robert Koch, Nancy Ellis LeBlond, John Ellis Bush, Jr., Florida Gov. John Ellis “Jeb” Bush, Mandi Bush, George P. Bush, and Columba Bush. (By Eric Draper/White House/Wikimedia Commons)
It is a little tough to decide what anecdote to reach for.
Perhaps it is the one from seven springs ago, when I’m sitting in steerage in one of Washington’s sundry public affairs firms, and hearing a campaign man from Bush for President, 2016. The primary is a done deal, kid, we’re living as large as liege lords down in Miami, that is, Jeb H.Q. Come along, it’ll be a breezy summer and autumn as we prepare for conservative coronation, and onto battle against Camp Clinton. This is America, haven’t heard you? And the American people love little else more than a totally irrational dynasty. Don’t want to come on the campaign? The Political Action Committee is even more flush; it’s called “Right to Rise.” It should be called “Right to Rule.”
Three Christmases later, and the foremost rag of Jeb’s brother (“We Were Eight Years in Neoconservatism”), the Weekly Standard, is closing its doors. Posters of the coarse caricatures that once emblazoned zine sheets, pillorying any doubter of the “War on Terror,” came down as swiftly in Northwest Washington as the Saddam statue in central Baghdad. Unable to contain my cheerfulness, my editor at the time remarks, “They’re not exactly opening new magazines every day.”
So it is with this bittersweet mix of emotions that I greet the political demise of Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Jeb’s son. The younger Bush was positively blown out-of-the-water this week in a benighted bid against a Trumpist attorney general, Ken Paxton, himself hunted by Johnny Law. It wasn’t exactly a recount in Florida circa 2000. General Paxton won by some 36 points, lapping the last hope of Kennebunkport. Today, Miami is either the home of Trump for President 2024, or DeSantis 2024/8/, or whatever it is that Senator Marco Rubio does these days. Florida has long ceased to be “Bush Country,” as John Podhoretz appallingly once wrote of Red America all the way from Manhattan.
It would seem now that Texas, where “Poppy Bush” made a mean fortune in Midland and where “43” wandered around in an alcoholic haze until he turned 40 and then decided to become president (the coolest thing about him), is no country for the last of WASP dynasties either. George P. Bush, himself half-Mexican American, would appear the Romulus Augustulus—the last, anonymous emperor of “Rome”—of the Old Guard WASPs. Today, the most plausible future WASP president is probably a “Hillbilly” convert to Catholicism. And ironically enough, the Bush family name would probably be best fielded in Connecticut, where this woebegone American political tale all started, back when senators (or people) were named Prescott. Richard Nixon once, essentially, called Bohemian Grove the gayest thing he’d ever seen. And today Skull and Bones is “woke.”
Reporting on the sad state affairs of both the United States as it nears 250 and the careening power of the Bush line after extreme prominence for at least a third of that time has a purpose. Accepting the Republican nomination in 2000, future President George W. Bush told the gathered, “My friend, the artist Tom Lea of El Paso, Texas, captured the way I feel about our great land, a land I love,’ … He said, ‘Live on the east side of the mountain. It’s the sunrise side, not the sunset side. It is the side to see the day that is coming, not to see the day that has gone.’”
Bush, the born-again, would remark in similar fashion about his disinterest regarding history from the White House. He was “the decider.” On “history”? “We don’t know. We’ll all be dead.”
George P. Bush will not be Texas attorney general. Jeb is not president. President George W. Bush is retired in Dallas these days, horrifyingly confusing Iraq and Ukraine, a final insult to all who lived under his rule, or worse, beneath his sword, or still worse, the millenarian evil he empowered. As the families five hours south and west can attest, living on the sunrise side of the mountain is no refuge for a country dominated by repellent anomie.
Sitting in West Hollywood, I myself look back east, toward my country. But Americans could do worse than to live more on the sunset side of the mountain, and take honest stock of what has become of this country, not live in denial, or under the guarantee of a better day. They didn’t want to be, but I suspect the Bush family, as this week showed, already lives there.