Getting Out of the Bushes
Scott McKay
by
George P. Bush (YouTube screenshot)

By any rational or objective definition of the term, George P. Bush is a crooked politician whose terminal electoral velocity is that of Texas Land Commissioner and no further. Bush, after all, appears to have done a quite sloppy job of hiding cronyism and graft, and there are now, rightly, calls for his resignation or impeachment.

Or haven’t you heard about Arabella Exploration?

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush failed to disclose his ties to at least 11 companies, including a Cayman Islands-based oil and gas firm that did business with a state fund he helps oversee, records obtained by The Texas Tribune show.

Arabella Exploration, which declared bankruptcy in 2017, put Bush on its board in January 2014, paid him $43,000 for his service and granted him stock options that were valued at over $100,000, regulatory filings show. The next year, a few months into his new job as land commissioner — and about a year after he left the Arabella board — the School Land Board, which Bush chairs, approved a lease agreement with Arabella for oil and gas exploration in West Texas, records show.

State politicians must provide details of their personal finances, including business dealings and corporate board service, every year to the Texas Ethics Commissions so voters can judge whether their elected leaders have any conflicts of interest.

Nowhere did Bush’s 2015 state disclosure mention Arabella, however. Nor did he list 10 other companies in which he has a stake on more recent disclosure forms. The other companies on the list include investments held or owned by St. Augustine Partners, LLC, some of them focused on the oil and gas business. [Emphasis added.]

Or maybe the secret mansion?

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush lives in an Austin mansion he financed at a bank owned by a major Republican donor who employed his wife, Austin lawyer Amanda Bush.

But voters would be hard-pressed to connect all those dots.

Bush’s name doesn’t appear in online property appraisal records for the 4,000-square-foot house he bought in a gated West Austin enclave in 2014. And the $850,000 mortgage from donor Brandon Steele’s East Texas bank isn’t disclosed on the personal financial statements that Bush, like all state candidates, must file.

The house — with four bedrooms, a fireplace in the master bedroom and a pool out back — is legally owned by a family trust that also isn’t disclosed in Bush’s personal financial statements.

There is nothing particularly special about George P. Bush. So far he’s demonstrated himself to be an entirely mediocre and uninspiring politician, whose distinguishing features are that (1) he’s Hispanic on his mother’s side and (2) he’s the latest incarnation of the Bush political dynasty we are supposed to believe still contains useful life.

Useful life to whom, is a good question.

While there can be lots of argument over whether Donald Trump’s combativeness isn’t a bit more frequent and/or high-temperature than it needs to be, there can be no argument over the question about whether Trump’s governing style and fortitude don’t produce superior results to the Bush style.

Remember how George H. W. Bush ran in 1988 on creating a “kinder, gentler America?” Remember how his son George W. Bush pushed “compassionate conservatism” in 2000? Both intonations of Bush Republicanism were an insult to Republican voters, as they offered surrender to the fundamental lie that conservatism, which seeks to free the civil society and the goodness of the American people to address societal problems and to get government out of the way so that the prosperity of the free enterprise system can alleviate the negative effects of the income inequality the Left so often whines about, is cruel.

Both Bushes foundered badly in the White House, because both refused to defend themselves when the truly cruel people in politics — who are not conservatives or Republicans, by the way — began laying into them. And in both cases those people who agreed to put them in office despite the fundamental insult of their message largely abandoned them in the end.

And there was, of course, the questionable ethics of Bush Republicanism, with its cozy relationships with Saudi sheiks and its commitment to military adventurism in places without definitive connections to American national interest. Throw in an inexplicably soft policy toward Chinese abuse of international trade and an open-borders immigration policy that served the interests (namely, a preference for low wages) of those rapacious financiers whose commercial antics are the reason for the narrative of a cruel conservatism in the first place, and there is your recipe for a declining GOP.

Most voters will tell you Bush Republicanism is finished. Clearly it has lost the ability to win elections nationally. John McCain didn’t even like George W. Bush, but he lost as its avatar in 2008, and Mitt Romney was as Bush-y a Republican as one could find when he tanked the 2012 election. And in 2016 there was Jeb Bush, who, to give him his due, was a far more successful governor of Florida than W. was a governor of Texas, running so badly in the 2016 presidential primary.

Democrats and the Left miss the Bushes. They want so badly to have some Washington Generals available for their Harlem Globetrotters to play dirty tricks on. With Trump, who is willing to roll up his sleeves and tolerates scant little Democrat gamesmanship in the media or on Capitol Hill, it’s just no fun anymore — and let’s face it, if you’re a Democrat watching Pete Buttigieg, Liz Warren, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders engage in a succession of pillow fights over the right to be boat-raced by Trump next fall, everything about American politics is depressing. They’ve impeached Trump, after all, or at least held a vote to do it, and it hasn’t fazed him or his supporters one bit.

What to do? Well, one imperative is to keep alive the career of the only Bush left in politics who anyone cares about. So of course the Dallas Morning News runs a long piece about George P. and what a super guy he is.

And what’s the gist of the piece? Wait for it — conservatives and Republicans in Texas are a bunch of racists, but George P. isn’t, and is therefore better.

Because of course that’s the gist of it. What else is there?

For his part, Bush focuses on outreach to communities that are not traditionally seen as Republican hotbeds: Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Hispanics. He meets with black chambers of commerce and attends Chinese New Year events to push voter registration and civic engagement.

He looks at his success in Fort Bend County southwest of Houston — with its ethnically diverse population which he sees as a microcosm of Texas’ future — as proof that a conservative message can ring true with voters of color and immigrants. His similar success in Tarrant County, he said, is proof that Republican policies have broad appeal.

But he fears the radical wing of his party could derail that success, such as people who have falsely claimed that Bush plans to erect a statue of the general who led Mexican troops against the Texians at the Alamo — an assertion he has called an “outright lie” and “flat-out racist.”

Bush said those views come from a vocal minority.

“For someone in my position, there has to be a reminder that there’s a silent majority out there,” who are trying to raise kids, build a family and work toward the American Dream, he said.

But keeping that faith is difficult, Bush acknowledged. He’s seen longtime Republican precinct chairs, important grass-roots leaders, throw in the towel after becoming disillusioned with Trump’s abrasive and unpredictable style and with state leaders who refuse to speak against him.

But Bush said he isn’t giving up. He prides himself on pushing a consistent political vision focused on limited government and individual empowerment throughout his years in public life.

“Conservatism endures — or at least the ideology that I’m proposing that as a party we focus more on — is more enduring than a two-year or four-year political election cycle,” he said. “There’s a foundational layer that’s rooted in faith, rooted in the Constitution, and things are bigger than one individual.”

Though he’s aligned with his party in supporting Trump, Bush is clearly playing the long game. He touts the importance of working across the aisle and doesn’t see bipartisanship as a bad word.

There’s an easy answer to all of this: no.

No to allowing soulless grifters with “R’s” next to their names to team with partisan Democrats in the media to trash their own voters, no to allowing questionable or unsavory actors to dictate policies that poison the GOP’s electability.

And no to any more Bushes on the national political scene.

George P. Bush told the Dallas paper he has no interest in federal office, but he’ll certainly run for governor of Texas at some point in the future. Here’s hoping voters in the Lone Star State move on and look to the many talented conservatives on their bench as better options than to bring another member of that family into the limelight.

Scott McKay
Scott McKay
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Scott McKay is publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics. He’s also a novelist — check out his first book “Animus: A Tale of Ardenia,” available in Kindle and paperback.
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