GOP’s secret idiot? If George P. Bush is its future, the party’s in trouble

Dubya's nephew is running for office, and is Rand Paul's expert on Hispanic voters. But his luck may be running out

Topics: George P. Bush, Bush Family, Texas, 2014 elections, Republican Party, latino voters, Editor's Picks, Hispanic voters, GOP, The Right,

GOP's secret idiot? If George P. Bush is its future, the party's in troubleGeorge P. Bush (Credit: Reuters/Lee Celano)

George Prescott Bush, son of Jeb and grandson of George Herbert Walker, is running for Texas land commissioner. Next stop: the White House! As long as he manages to get himself elected land commissioner, that is. It may be tougher than he anticipated, which is to say it may actually require more than simply wanting the job and being named Bush.

Not many Texas voters really understand what the land commissioner does, making it the perfect office for someone with a lot of money and/or name recognition but no prior experience. Unfortunately, it is actually a pretty powerful state office, responsible for millions of acres of land, including mineral rights leasing, making it perhaps not the best office for a political neophyte with no prior government experience.

That is why the Austin American-Statesman editorial board recently referred to the “weak candidate pool” as “distressing.” They went on to endorse Bush’s Republican opponent, mostly for not being George P. Bush. Bush has run a classic rich man’s non-campaign, ducking the press and limiting public appearances to brief, completely controlled situations. He has avoided newspaper editorial boards and in-depth interviews in favor of brief hits with local TV news.

Reports from the field suggest the bus tour has been comprised of short speeches, no audience questions, some small talk with voters, quick interviews with local media and then on to the next event. We tried nine times via phone and email to reach Bush’s campaign, with no response.

That’s not a great way to earn an endorsement. As Texas Monthly’s Paul Burka pointed out, Bush committed to running for land commissioner primarily because it seemed “the path of least resistance.” He filed his papers to run for office well before finally deciding on which one, making it all the more obvious that he was just searching for the easiest possible route to bigger things. The Bush family passion for “public service” increasingly resembles that of the Romney family, in which running for office is viewed as a sort of philanthropic gesture, as if the candidate is offering the masses the experience of being governed by a decent and right-thinking natural leader. To reject this offer is to appear frightfully ungrateful. That presumption and entitlement are enough to make an otherwise sober newspaper editorial board endorse a man whose campaign platform seems to be mainly about barring the children of immigrants from getting public educations.



Being famous and avoiding scrutiny as much as possible is actually a decent way to get elected to many offices. It helps to have money, and Bush certainly does. One benefit of being a Bush is access to the legendary Bush family “Rolodex” of family friends/fundraisers. Mr. Bush’s campaign has nearly $3 million, the Wall Street Journal recently reported. “The campaign of his primary opponent, Gilmer business consultant David Watts, had $2,000 cash on hand and $4,000 in debt….”

But the lengths to which Bush is going to avoid saying anything interesting might be a slight sign of concern about his political ability. Sometimes a successful political scion seems like exactly the sort of person who should run for office right up until they do so and then open their mouths, revealing themselves to be idiots, completely unable to articulate reasons for existing at all, let alone reasons for anyone to vote for them. Bush’s strategy seems to mainly involve not allowing anyone to give him the opportunity to embarrass himself by having to speak extemporaneously or answer difficult questions about policy or Republican politics. Not that I’m saying George P. Bush is secretly an idiot! He just might be, and he seems intent on maintaining the mystery.

Rand Paul recently met with Bush in Texas, where the senator (and fellow son of a politician who benefited mightily from his family’s already extensive fundraising infrastructure) sought the candidate’s advice on a subject that is of endless interest to political pundits and Republican politicians wishing to appear long-term-oriented:

“Really I wanted to get advice from him, as much as anything, about how the party grows in Texas and states with large Hispanic populations,” Paul (R-Ky.) told POLITICO backstage after stumping for a state senate candidate here.

Ah, yes, George P. Bush — a native Spanish-speaker whose mother is Mexican-American — is just another stop on Paul’s “asking various ethnic communities what it would take to get them to vote for Republicans” listening tour. Still, how much advice could Bush, who has never actually won an election with Hispanic support (or any other kind of support), actually give?

A man who was born into one of the most prominent Republican families in the nation is perhaps not the best person to turn to for advice on appealing to various disparate blocs of mostly liberal voters from wildly varying backgrounds — “Hispanics,” in other words — especially if that man is unwilling to admit that the wisest thing the party could do to appeal to many of those voters is to become more liberal on most major domestic issues and also stop being so goddamn racist all of the goddamn time.

As long as the Republican Party thinks the solution is to “showcase more high-profile Latino candidates but change nothing else at all,” their outreach efforts will probably not achieve much. So what sort of message does Bush have for Paul and other Republicans looking for tips on winning over those elusive Latino voters?

Bush said he wants to be among the next generation of leaders guiding the state forward.

“Our state’s values are under attack. And this attack is being led by one man and one man only. His name is Barack Obama,” he said. “And now he has his ideological soul mate, in the name of Wendy Davis.

Yeah, I bet “Barack Obama is the enemy of our values” is a message that’s really gonna resonate with the broader Latino community. It almost sounds like George P. Bush’s secret to winning in an increasingly diverse Texas, much like the Republican Party’s strategy in the nation as a whole, is to try to appeal to white conservatives until the very second that stops working.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 22
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Talking Heads, 1977
    This was their first weekend as a foursome at CBGB’s, after adding Jerry Harrison, before they started recording the LP “Talking Heads: 77.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith, Bowery 1976
    Patti lit up by the Bowery streetlights. I tapped her on the shoulder, asked if I could do a picture, took two shots and everyone went back to what they were doing. 1/4 second at f/5.6 no tripod.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Blondie, 1977
    This was taken at the Punk Magazine Benefit show. According to Chris Stein (seated, on slide guitar), they were playing “Little Red Rooster.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    No Wave Punks, Bowery Summer 1978
    They were sitting just like this when I walked out of CBGB's. Me: “Don’t move” They didn’t. L to R: Harold Paris, Kristian Hoffman, Diego Cortez, Anya Phillips, Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Jim Sclavunos, Bradley Field, Liz Seidman.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell + Bob Quine, 1978
    Richard Hell and the Voidoids, playing CBGB's in 1978, with Richard’s peerless guitar player Robert Quine. Sorely missed, Quine died in 2004.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bathroom, 1977
    This photograph of mine was used to create the “replica” CBGB's bathroom in the Punk Couture show last summer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So I got into the Met with a bathroom photo.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Stiv Bators + Divine, 1978
    Stiv Bators, Divine and the Dead Boys at the Blitz Benefit show for injured Dead Boys drummer Johnny Blitz.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977
    “The kids are all hopped up and ready to go…” View from the unique "side stage" at CBGB's that you had to walk past to get to the basement bathrooms.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Klaus Nomi, Christopher Parker, Jim Jarmusch – Bowery 1978
    Jarmusch was still in film school, Parker was starring in Jim’s first film "Permanent Vacation" and Klaus just appeared out of nowhere.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Hilly Kristal, Bowery 1977
    When I used to show people this picture of owner Hilly Kristal, they would ask me “Why did you photograph that guy? He’s not a punk!” Now they know why. None of these pictures would have existed without Hilly Kristal.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Dictators, Bowery 1976
    Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators with his girlfriend Jody. I took this shot as a thank you for him returning the wallet I’d lost the night before at CBGB's. He doesn’t like that I tell people he returned it with everything in it.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Alex Chilton, Bowery 1977
    We were on the median strip on the Bowery shooting what became a 45 single sleeve for Alex’s “Bangkok.” A drop of rain landed on the camera lens by accident. Definitely a lucky night!

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery view, 1977
    The view from across the Bowery in the summer of 1977.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ramones, 1977 – never before printed
    I loved shooting The Ramones. They would play two sets a night, four nights a week at CBGB's, and I’d be there for all of them. This shot is notable for Johnny playing a Strat, rather than his usual Mosrite. Maybe he’d just broken a string. Love that hair.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Richard Hell, Bowery 1977 – never before printed
    Richard exiting CBGB's with his guitar at 4am, about to step into a Bowery rainstorm. I’ve always printed the shots of him in the rain, but this one is a real standout to me now.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Patti Smith + Ronnie Spector, 1979
    May 24th – Bob Dylan Birthday show – Patti “invited” everyone at that night’s Palladium show on 14th Street down to CBGB's to celebrate Bob Dylan’s birthday. Here, Patti and Ronnie are doing “Be My Baby.”

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Legs McNeil, 1977
    Legs, ready for his close-up, near the front door of CBGB's.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Suicide, 1977
    Rev and Alan Vega – I thought Alan was going to hit me with that chain. This was the Punk Magazine Benefit show.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Ian Hunter and Fans, outside bathroom
    I always think of “All the Young Dudes” when I look at this shot. These fans had caught Ian Hunter in the CBGB's basement outside the bathrooms, and I just stepped in to record the moment.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Tommy Ramone, 1977
    Only at CBGB's could I have gotten this shot of Tommy Ramone seen through Johnny Ramones legs.

    Once upon a time on the Bowery

    Bowery 4am, 1977
    End of the night garbage run. Time to go home.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...