Texas

The Rise and Fall of the Bush Family Dynasty

This article is part Texas Monthlyspecial issue commemorating the fiftieth anniversary. Read about other icons that have defined Texas since 1973.

The Bush family didn’t look much like a future Texas political dynasty in 1973. Of course, politics was in the blood of the clan—Prescott, the patriarch, was the United States Senator from Connecticut. But his son George, a Yankee who moved to Texas, failed twice for the Senate and was forced to accept two terms in the US House of Representatives. From there, he was appointed ambassador to the UN, and then he became chairman of the Republican National Committee – his calling was clearly Washington, not Texas. And yet, decades later, one of his sons would become governor of Lone Star State, another would become governor of Florida, and then a grandson would be elected land commissioner. In Texas, a near-royal status developed, and the family opened a store—twice—in the White House. Then, when a tougher style of politics became popular, everything collapsed. A future Bush dynasty looks even more unlikely today than it did fifty years ago.


September 4, 1974

Power Rating: 30
George W. Bush has been appointed head of the US diplomatic mission in China.

January 30, 1976

Power Rating: ▲40
George Bush becomes director of the CIA.

November 7, 1978

Power Rating:35
George W. Bush loses his first political race for a seat in Texas’ nineteenth congressional district.

May 1, 1979

Power Rating: ▲45
George W. Bush announces his candidacy for the Republican presidency.

May 26, 1980

Power Rating: ▼ 40
George H. W. loses the nomination to Ronald Reagan.

November 4, 1980

Strength Rating: ▲70
As Reagan’s running mate, George W. Bush is elected the nation’s 43rd vice president.

March 30, 1981

Strength Rating: ▲75
The calm behavior of George W. Bush after the assassination attempt on Reagan impresses the president, bringing them closer.

US President Ronald Reagan (left) and Vice President George W. Bush greet applause from the floor of the Dallas Convention Center during the Republican National Convention in Dallas on August 24, 1984.
US President Ronald Reagan (left) and Vice President George W. Bush greet applause from the floor of the Dallas Convention Center during the Republican National Convention in Dallas on August 24, 1984.Barry Tumma/AP
November 6, 1984

Power Rating: ▲80
Reagan and George W. Bush are re-elected.

November 1986

Power Rating: ▼ 75
George W. Bush is embroiled in the burgeoning Iran-Contra scandal, and the investigation will haunt him for years.

August 18, 1988

Strength Rating: ▲85
Bush is named the presidential candidate at the Republican convention, where he famously declares, “Read my lips: no new taxes.”

Fall 1988

Power Rating: ▼ 80
George W. Bush’s campaign begins with the controversial “Willie Horton” ad, which is widely believed to appeal to racial prejudice.

November 8, 1988

Power Rating: ▲95
George Bush wins the presidential election.

December 2–3, 1989

Power Rating: ▲ 100
George W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev are paving the way for German reunification, ending the Cold War.

November 5, 1990

Power Rating: ▼ 85
George W. Bush signs a bill to raise taxes, angering many Republicans.

January 17, 1991

Power Rating: ▲ 100
George W. Bush launches the first Gulf War, pushing the Iraqi military out of Kuwait. His approval rating rises to 89 percent in March.

December 1991

Power Rating: one hundred
The Soviet Union is collapsing and George W. Bush is being applauded for his skillful response.

January 8, 1992

Power Rating: ▼ 90
George W. Bush vomits on the Prime Minister of Japan.

November 3, 1992

Strength Rating: ▼ 70
George W. Bush loses re-election to Bill Clinton.

George W. Bush signals to supporters with daughters Jenna (second from left), Barbara from left and wife Laura (right) on November 8, 1994 in Austin.
George W. Bush signaling to supporters with daughters Jenna, second from left; Barbara (left to right); and wife Laura (right) on November 8, 1994 in Austin.George Bridges/AP
November 8, 1994

Power Rating: ▲75
George W. is elected governor of Texas; his brother Jeb Bush is losing the Florida gubernatorial election.

November 3, 1998

Power Rating:80
George W. re-elected Governor of Texas; Jeb is elected governor of Florida.

August 3, 2000

Strength Rating: ▲90
George W. is nominated for the Republican presidential nomination.

November 3, 2000

Power Rating: ▼ 85
There are reports in the news that George V. was arrested for drunk driving in 1976.

December 12, 2000

Strength Rating: ▲95
After a bitter vote count, the Supreme Court hands George W. the presidency.

President George W. Bush hugs firefighter Bob Beckwith as he stands in front of the World Trade Center in New York on September 14, 2001.
President George W. Bush hugs firefighter Bob Beckwith as he stands in front of the World Trade Center in New York on September 14, 2001.Doug Mills/AP
September 14, 2001

Power Rating: ▲ 100
George W. rallies the nation from Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks.

October 7, 2001

Power Rating: one hundred
The US starts a war in Afghanistan.

March 19, 2003

Power Rating: one hundred
The US starts a war in Iraq.

May 1, 2003

Power Rating: one hundred
“Mission Complete.”

April 2004

Power Rating:80
Iraqi Abu Ghraib Prison Torture Revealed, Spurring U.S. Condemnation

November 2, 2004

Power Rating:one hundred
George W. is re-elected president.

August 2005

Power Rating: ▼ 80
Hurricane Katrina is devastating the Gulf Coast and George W. Bush has been widely criticized for his bashful response.

November 9, 2006

Power Rating: ▼ 70
Democrats gain control of Congress.

September 15, 2008

Power Rating: ▼ 60
The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers signals the start of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

January 20, 2009

Power Rating:45
George W. leaves office with an underwater approval rating.

Former US President George W. Bush and Barbara Bush walk to the White House on January 1, 2007 in Washington, DC.
Former US President George W. Bush and Barbara Bush walk to the White House on January 1, 2007 in Washington, DC.Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty
April 25, 2013

Power Rating:40
Barbara Bush says her son Jeb shouldn’t run for president: “We’ve had enough Bushes.”

November 4, 2014

Power Rating:50
Jeb’s son George P. Bush is elected Texas Land Commissioner.

June 15, 2015

Power Rating:60
Jeb enters the presidential race.

February 20, 2016

Power Rating:45
After proving his mother right, Jeb ends his presidential campaign.

October 7, 2016

Power Rating:40
Video of George W. Bush’s nephew Billy Bush, co-host released Today show, laughing as Donald Trump says the line “Grab ’em by the pussy.”

November 30, 2018

Power Rating:65
Seven months after the death of his wife, George Bush Sr. dies at the age of 94 and is widely known as a gentleman and an experienced statesman.

March 3, 2020

Power Rating:50
George W. Bush’s nephew Piers Bush is third in the GOP primary in Texas’ 22nd congressional district.

June 2, 2021

Strength Rating: ▼ 40
George P. announces a run for Attorney General of Texas. His campaign promotes this Donald Trump quote: “That’s the only Bush that likes me. . . . I like him.”

August 30, 2021

Power Rating:35
The war in Afghanistan started by George W. Bush is coming to an inglorious end.

May 18, 2022

Power Rating:20
During the speech, George W. Bush criticizes “the decision of one man to launch a completely unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq – I mean Ukraine.”

George P. Bush poses for a portrait during the presidential campaign in Garland, February 22, 2022.
George P. Bush poses for a portrait during the presidential campaign in Garland, February 22, 2022.Cooper Neal/The Washington Post/Getty
May 24, 2022

Power Rating:15
George P. is defeated in the Republican primary for attorney general.

January 17, 2023

Power Rating: five
George P. resigns as land commissioner, leaving the Bushes in public office and for the first time in fifty years with no clear prospects for this.

This article first appeared in the February 2023 issue of the magazine. Texas Monthly with the title “The Rise and Fall of the Bush House”. Subscribe today.


Image Credits: George HW speech: Lennox McLendon/AP; George H.W. and Reagan: Barry Tumma/AP; George W. with fireman: Doug Mills/AP; Barbara: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty; George P.: Cooper Neal/The Washington Post via Getty

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