The Bush Family Thanksgiving Will Be Even More Awkward Than Yours

The Bush family has been publicly focus-grouping Jeb's potential 2016 candidacy.

October 02, 2014, 4:03 PM
PHOTO: Vice President George H. W. Bush, center, poses with his family outside St. Anns Church, in this Aug. 8, 1988, Kennebunkport, Maine.
Vice President George H. W. Bush, center, poses with his family outside St. Anns Church, in this Aug. 8, 1988, Kennebunkport, Maine.
Herb Swanson/AP Photo

— -- With two former presidents, one former governor, the likely future land commissioner of Texas, one TV news correspondent and a strong-willed matriarch all sitting around one table, this year’s Bush family Thanksgiving will be a gathering unlike any other in America.

But it’s clear that, like many other dining room tables across the country, the Bush’s turkey and gravy will be served with a heaping side of political tension. And which member of the Bush clan is likely to be most uncomfortable? That would be former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who’s thought to be contemplating a White House bid. As Jeb Bush’s son, Jeb Bush Jr., acknowledged last month, 2016 is “the 800-pound gorilla in the room” at family gatherings.

Recent news reports suggest that Jeb Bush should expect to have his entire political life dissected by his famous family members, who all seem to think they know what’s best for him.

“I think he wants to be president,” Jeb Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush, said on Fox News Thursday. “I think he’d be a great president.”

And despite W.’s April 2013 assertion that his brother “doesn’t need my counsel ‘cause he knows what it is,” George W. Bush revealed on Fox that he’d doled out some advice anyway.

“I, of course, was pushing him to run for president. He, of course, was saying, ‘I haven’t made up my mind,’” the former president said of a recent conversation between the two brothers. “I don’t think he liked that his older brother was pushing him.”

But even as Jeb Bush’s big brother eggs him on, his mother reins him in.

“We’ve had enough Bushes” in the White House, Barbara Bush told NBC’s Matt Lauer in April 2013. “There are other people out there that are very qualified. ... It’s not just four families.

“He’s by far the best qualified man, but no,” she said, when asked if she’d like to see her son run.

Then, earlier this year, she seemed to warm up to the idea -- a flip-flop that is sure to spark some dinner table conversation.

“Maybe it’s OK,” she said on "Fox & Friends" in March 2014. “It just seemed to me ridiculous, in a country of this size, that we didn’t have other families. ... Maybe Jeb’s given all he should give. 'Cause he’s worked awfully hard for a long time. But he is the best qualified person in the country, there’s no question about that. Put me down as saying that.”

In April, however, Jeb Bush’s niece, Jenna Bush Hager, let it slip that she doesn’t want to see another Bush in the White House “anytime soon.”

“I don’t want to answer that question!” Bush Hager declared.

Even as his extended family publicly focus-groups his candidacy, you’d hope Jeb Bush could count on his immediate family's support. But Jeb Bush’s wife, Columba, is rumored to share her mother-in-law and niece’s reticence.

His son, George P. Bush, who’s running for Texas Land Commissioner, confirmed that he would at least vote for his father should he mount a bid for the White House in 2016.

“I would definitely vote for him, I think it’s safe to say, otherwise I may not be invited back home for Thanksgiving,” the younger Bush said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Thursday. But stretching his neck out to formally endorse dad? That’s another story.

George P. Bush’s senior adviser, Trey Newton, later clarified that a promised vote is not the same thing as a formal endorsement and said George P. Bush had no plans to actively campaign for any one presidential candidate, according to Journal reporter Laura Meckler.

(That sentiment apparently hasn’t stopped Jeb Bush from stumping for George P. Bush in Texas.)

This isn’t the first time George P. Bush, who insists he’s “a man in my own right who stands in my own shoes,” has appeared reluctant to support his father’s presidential ambitions.

When asked if he would endorse Jeb Bush’s potential presidential bid in 2016 at the Texas Tribune Festival last month, George P. Bush was evasive.

“You’re telling me ... you would not endorse your dad?” Texas Tribune Editor Evan Smith pressed Jeb Bush’s son.

“My focus has to be this agency,” George P. Bush replied, referring to the land commissioner position he is seeking this November. “If I’m entrusted by the voters of Texas to be land commissioner, that’s going to occupy my time.”

Really, it seems like the only family member that hasn’t taken a position on Jeb Bush’s candidacy is Jeb Bush himself.

"I'm trying to avoid the family conversation, to be honest with you,” he said during a November 2013 forum at Fordham Law School.

He may not be so lucky when it comes to his family.

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