WASHINGTON – What a difference three years can make for Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush.
The rising star in Texas Republican politics acknowledged on Thursday the awkward position he is in over his glowing 2012 endorsement of then-U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz, now that Cruz is running against his father for the GOP nomination.
“I guess it proves the old cliché that a year is an eternity in politics,” Bush said of the three-year-old endorsement, in which he referred to the future senator as “the future of the Republican Party."
“Things have changed dramatically,” Bush said. “Look, I’m friends with Ted. I supported him for U.S. Senate."
“But I supported him for U.S. Senate,” he added, implying that the support was limited to that campaign.
Bush sat down with The Texas Tribune for a wide-ranging interview covering Cruz, the health of Bush's grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush, the controversy surrounding his office and the Alamo, and what it’s like, as a Mexican-American Republican whose father is running for president, to hear Donald Trump’s incendiary remarks on undocumented workers.
Bush was in town lobbying the Texas delegation for federal funding to better prepare Texas for natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes. He said he was on track to meet with a majority of the Texas delegation this week, including several Democrats.
Despite his focus on state business during his trip to purpose in Washington, he was game to answer questions about the presidential campaign that includes his father, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
“I’m now serving Texas in a great role as land commissioner, and I love my dad,” he said. “I think he’s a great leader. I think he’ll unite our party. I think he’ll be consistent and he’s bringing the type of leadership that we need in our country.”
With regard to Cruz, he argued his support for his father would not end his political relationship with Cruz.
“It’s not a zero-sum game,” he said. “We can still be friends. I still subscribe to the theory that Ronald Reagan once pronounced, that I will never speak ill will of my fellow Republican.”
Bush was less accepting of Trump, who spent the first weeks of his own presidential run making contentious comments about undocumented workers from Mexico.
“I think there are a lot of Republicans that feel his comments have no place in our party,” Bush said.
He added that he believed most Americans disregard Trump as “a serious candidate,” nor does the billionaire accurately reflect the “viewpoints of the Republican Party.”
“My dad is an aspirational candidate,” Bush added. “He’s not engaging and lowering to [Trump's] level.”
Bush also commented on the news that his grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush, fractured a bone in his neck after a fall.
“When it comes to these things, the media has more information than I do,” Bush said, adding that his father called him with the news on Wednesday.
“He’s the most amazing man I’ve known in my life,” he said of the 41st president. “My grandmother joked that a slip and fall is not going to take out a World War II pilot.”
Bush spoke on Thursday morning the Texas State Society, an organization of Texas ex-patriots who live in Washington, D.C. U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, attended the breakfast and during a question-and-answer session commented on the former president.
“I will keep you and your family in my prayers,” Green said. “Your grandfather is the first and probably the only president to have a one-on-one meeting with me.”
Bush responded with surprise, saying, “You’re kidding…”
Despite Bush's warm Washington welcome, his first months on the job were not without controversy. There are members of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas who are still angry with Bush for firing the organization as managers of the Alamo.
In his remarks to the Texas State Society, he said “it’s important that we create more deference to the site” and time to make visits to the Alamo a “more meaningful experience.”
Elaborating in his interview, Bush said he was legally advised to not comment on some aspects of the blowup due to ongoing litigation over the group's library collection.
But he did say of the Daughters: “They will not be erased from the Alamo’s history. And I think most people recognize whether it’s our agency or San Antonians that the Alamo wouldn’t be there without their contributions. So I want to make that clear.”
Patrick Svitek contributed to this report.