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The Damnation of George P. Bush

It all ends in tears. These things usually do.
July 26, 2021
The Damnation of George P. Bush
“Oh shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin. “You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in." (Photo Twitter, @georgepbush)

On Monday night, Donald Trump issued his endorsement in next year’s race for Texas attorney general. You’ll never guess who he picked. Let me give you a hint: It was not the guy whose name rhymes with tush.

Thus concludes the single most craven political career in—honestly, I’m not even sure how long. Because no politician in my lifetime has brought more dishonor upon himself than George P. Bush.

Over the course of his five years in politics, Donald Trump insulted, disparaged, and slandered many decent Americans. One of them happened to be George P. Bush’s father, the former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane with a (partial) list of the things Trump said about George P.’s dad:

Then there was the time Trump retweeted a dude—whose handle was “White Genocide”—who made a meme of Jeb as a homeless beggar outside Trump Tower.

Now maybe you say that’s just the hurly-burly of politics. It’s just locker room talk. Nothing personal. Man in the arena. Whatever.

Except that Trump also insulted Jeb’s wife—this would be George P.’s own damn mother—and, even after a cooling off period, refused to apologize for it.

And then there was the time that Trump talked about George P.’s uncle, George W. Bush, and literally accused him of treason.

George P. Bush surveyed all of this, thought about the family to which he owed everything—do you think this guy could have gotten elected dog catcher in Amarillo if his last name had been Jones?—and decided that he didn’t just want to be the Texas attorney general. He really, reeeealllllllyyyyyyyy wanted to be the Texas attorney general.

So he did this.

That, my friends, is the idiot grin of a man who thinks that selling his soul is just another thing you do. Like snagging a clerkship. Or landing a job at Akin Gump. Or getting into private equity. You want to do a thing so you just . . . do it. The doors of life are open and all you have to do is walk through them, without a care for the consequences of what’s on the other side.

It gets worse.

George P. Bush leaned into this entire affair so hard that he sold merch boasting about the betrayal of his family:

Please note the date: This is from June. Six months after the January insurrection.

What did this abasement and betrayal get George P.? A fat load of jack squat.

Surely George P. wasn’t foolish enough to think that Trump would go so far as to endorse him. But he probably hoped that, by toadying as shamelessly as possible, he might keep Trump on the sidelines and out of endorsing in the race.

At the least, he must have hoped that Trump wouldn’t weigh in until much later in the race, when, if George P. had good poll numbers, maybe Trump would be nervous about endorsing someone else.

But you must understand that this election, the Republican primary, isn’t until May 1, 2022. It’s more than nine months away. Trump endorsing this early effectively puts an end to the race. It freezes all of the party establishment and money in place, because now to be for George P. is to be against Trump. Ain’t no Texas Republicans fixin’ to do that there foolishness.

It may surprise you, but I would argue that this is the best possible outcome. Maybe not for Texas—Ken Paxton, who has been under a longstanding indictment for securities fraud, could potentially wind up in jail as a sitting AG—but for America.

Republicans needed an object lesson in the wages of Trumpism. A great many Republicans still believe that if they just get along, they’ll go along. That if they keep their heads down, or truckle under, they can keep running their game. That so long as they’re not like those icky Never Trumpers, the revolution won’t come for them.

To go against Trumpism is to court defeat. To abase yourself before it is to add dishonor to the bargain.

The funny part—and really, this is the single weirdest irony of our entire nationalist odyssey—is that Trump frequently ended his rallies by reading “The Snake.”

President Trump reads the "Snake Poem" at his rally in North Carolina

Donald Trump literally told the Republican party who he was and what he would do to them. It was not subtext. It was the actual text. He read it from a paper. Over and over again.

Most of the party, it turned out, wanted a snake. They embraced the nihilism because it promised a chance to hurt their enemies.

But men like George P. Bush refused to believe—even at this late date—that the story could possibly be true.

Let his shame be a reminder, a warning, and a lesson.

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is editor of The Bulwark.