- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 2, 2018

The late President George H.W. Bush was the patriarch of a political family that was arguably more powerful and enduring in the Republican Party than the Kennedy dynasty that dominated Democratic politics for decades.

Starting with Mr. Bush, who died late Friday at age 94, a member of the Bush family has appeared on the ballot in seven of the past 10 presidential elections dating back to 1980. That’s when George Herbert Walker Bush was tapped by Ronald Reagan as his running mate after losing to Reagan in the GOP primary.

That watershed election for conservatives was the beginning of eight years as vice president for Mr. Bush, followed by four years as president. Son George W. Bush went on to win two terms in the White House — with father and son forever after referring to themselves as “41” and “43” for their respective places in presidential history.

The only other father-and-son duo to serve as president was founding father John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, who became president in 1825.

“The nation mourns the loss of a great patriarch who served this country as a war hero, congressman, CIA director, vice president and president,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican. “Just as important, he will be missed by his family as a caring husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. A truly honorable and gracious man has gone home to God.”

Russ Baker, author of a biography of the Bushes, said the family is better known for building an enduring political dynasty than for their policy or ideology. He said George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush, who died last April, practiced the personal touch in politics and amassed a Christmas-card list of 40,000.


SEE ALSO: Bush remembered as peerless patriot, patriarch of political dynasty


“The Bush family are the greatest ever at leveraging their communal family assets. Better, I believe, than even the Kennedys,” he told The Associated Press in 2017. “They are masters, they all get it. They understand this is what they are supposed to do.”

Mr. Bush lost his re-election bid in 1992 to Democrat Bill Clinton, a stinging defeat that was brought on partly by the Republican’s abandonment of his “read my lips” pledge not to raise taxes.

As Mr. Bush rose to the top of American politics, two of his sons were rising, too — aided by the father’s connections in the oil business and in government. George W. Bush was elected governor of Texas in 1994, and Jeb Bush served two terms as governor of Florida, beginning in 1999.

A few days before receiving the GOP presidential nomination in 2000, George W. Bush told reporters he was “mindful of the Adams family factor.” Someone on the campaign plane joked about the old TV show about a macabre family, and Mr. Bush laughed, saying no, not THAT “Addams family.”

“It wasn’t all that long ago that he himself was the president of the United States, which will make the story unique and different,” Mr. Bush said at the time, turning serious about the relationship with his father. “He is a dad, first and foremost. This man is not a political consultant. He is a father, and I love him and respect him. And the advice I get from him is the advice a dad would give a son. It is comforting, and so I will approach the moment of the nomination with a lot of feeling and a lot of emotion, recognizing that there’s going to be a lot of people watching.”

George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000 — defeating Al Gore, Clinton’s vice president — and guided the U.S. through the early years of the war on terrorism after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“During my presidency, Dad and I didn’t talk much about policy,” George W. Bush wrote in “41: A Portrait of My Father.”

But the son did rely on several of his father’s former advisers, including Dick Cheney, who became the younger Bush’s vice president for eight years, and Colin Powell, who became his secretary of State.

The late President H.W. Bush’s last words before he passed away Friday night were to his eldest son, George W., with whom he spoke on the phone. James Baker, former chief of staff to the 41st president, told CNN that just before the president passed away, he spoke to his children and told George W. Bush, “I love you too.”

George W. Bush told journalist Jonathan Decker in 2000 that he owed his political career to his father.

“My dad is a World War II veteran,” he told Mr. Decker in the book “Great Dads.” “He and his generation strongly believed in the concept of ‘duty, honor, and country.’ That sums up much of his life. He has always felt that one has a duty to serve one’s country in an honorable way. I obviously have inherited from him this same sense. I became interested in politics, in the political process, because of him.”

By 2016, however, the Bush family name had come to symbolize the Republican “establishment” in a negative way for supporters of Donald Trump, who criticized his predecessors in both parties for conceding too much to foreign powers on trade and national security.

Jeb Bush ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 but lost to Mr. Trump, who needled his rival with the famous family name as “low energy.”

Jeb’s son, George P. Bush, also entered politics and is now serving as land commissioner of Texas.

The first member of the Bush family to enter politics was actually Mr. Bush’s father, Prescott, a Wall Street investment banker who served as a Republican senator from Connecticut from 1952 to 1963. Republican President Dwight Eisenhower toyed with replacing Vice President Richard Nixon with Prescott Bush as his running mate in 1956, but stuck with Nixon.

Prescott Bush retired from the Senate in 1963, the same year that the shining star of Kennedy family politics, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated.

Neither of Kennedy’s younger brothers would capture the White House. Robert, a senator, was assassinated in 1968 while running for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Edward, one of the longest-serving senators in U.S. history, failed to win the party’s nomination in 1980 against President Jimmy Carter, partly due to lingering questions about the Chappaquiddick scandal.

Rep. Joe Kennedy III, Massachusetts Democrat and a grandson of Robert Kennedy, said the late president Bush’s life “was one of service and sacrifice.”

“He was the very definition of a public servant and a man dedicated to his family,” Mr. Kennedy tweeted. “All of us strive to match those same values. Our thoughts are with the Bush family.”

Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who lost the 2004 presidential election to George W. Bush, said the elder Bush “was competitive about politics and fiercely loyal to family, but always a gentleman, always a patriot.”

George H.W. Bush, namesake of his maternal grandfather, lost his first bid for office in a Senate race in Texas in 1964 but won a House seat in Houston two years later. He later served as chairman of the Republican National Committee, CIA director, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a U.S. diplomat in China.

In Washington, George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush endeared themselves to the White House staff and others by treating people with respect, according to those who knew them.

A book about the White House called “The Residence” by Kate Andersen Brower detailed in 2015 how the permanent staff — maids, cooks, butlers — revered Mr. Bush and first lady Barbara for their humility. Houseman Linsey Little “was one of a handful of household staff who played horseshoes with the president several times a month, sometimes two or three times a week,” the book recounted.

Once, the president even asked Little to join him in the Family Dining Room on the second floor.

“He told me to have a seat at the table and we sat there and talked,” Little told the author, shaking his head. “Sitting at the table with the president, having a conversation. None of the rest of them would have done a thing like that.”


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