Jeb Bush: Dad’s Disappointment Sent Me Into ‘Deep, Spiraling Depression’

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush holds a meet and greet at the Lions Club on November 4, 2015 in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. Bush is trying to re-energize his campaign after a poor debate performance last week. (Photo by
Darren McCollester/Getty Images
Washington, DC

The Washington Post notes Jeb Bush’s comeback tour looks like “a therapy session” and, intentionally, or not, may have said a lot more about why Jeb is flailing and looking as if he doesn’t even want to be president than perhaps the paper had intended.

This quote below alone has the potential to open up a couple of storylines that could all but end Jeb’s already seemingly endless, unproductive campaign.

… after a child asked what it was like to grow up the son of a president, (Jeb) Bush told a room full of kids that his father’s approval weighed on him. “All he had to do was say, ‘I’m disappointed in you,’ and it would send me in a deep, spiraling depression,” he said.

Some may still remember the disastrous 1972 McGovern campaign that sputtered when it surfaced that his VP selection, Thomas Eagleton, suffered from depression.

Democratic nominee George S. McGovern’s presidential hopes virtually evaporated when it was revealed shortly after the party convention that his newly chosen vice presidential running mate, Missouri U.S. Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton, had been hospitalized on three occasions for depression and had undergone electroshock therapy.

Reporters ought to be at least a bit curious about Jeb claiming to have experienced “a deep, spiraling depression” at any point in his life. And even if he wants to explain that away as poor word choice, it could still explain why we’re seeing such a lackluster performance from the would be third Bush to win the White House.

Is Jeb Bush running for the highest office in the land because he wants to, or would the disappointment from his now aging father if he didn’t at least try simply be too much for the son to bear?

More than a few observers have said it doesn’t look as though Jeb even wants the job. That he’s really only going through the motions simply to appease a demanding father could explain a great deal about what most are seeing and saying about the now flailing candidate.

From defiant American, to surrendering to France – to upbeat political pitchman become depressed schoolboy – Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign is now quite literally bouncing all over the place in an almost painful to watch process while trying to regain a footing in the race.

Add to that, thanks to a new book, we now know how serious Papa Bush took his son George W’s presidency. There’s no reason to believe he isn’t even more invested in Jeb gaining the White House given what we already know of the family dynamics.

WASHINGTON — After years of holding back, former President George Bush has finally broken his public silence about some of the key figures in his son’s administration, issuing scathing critiques of Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

In interviews with his biographer, Mr. Bush said that Mr. Cheney had built “his own empire” and asserted too much “hard-line” influence within George W. Bush’s White House in pushing for the use of force around the world. Mr. Rumsfeld, the elder Mr. Bush said, was an “arrogant fellow” who could not see how others thought and “served the president badly.”

Mr. Bush’s sharp assessments, contained in a biography by Jon Meacham to be published by Random House next week, gave voice to sentiments that many long suspected he had harbored but kept private until now. While he continued to praise his son, he did tell Mr. Meacham that the younger Mr. Bush was responsible for empowering Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld and was at times too bellicose in his language.

As has been widely reported, Jeb was always supposed to be the Bush to follow his father in the White House and the family was displeased that George W. ran for the Texas governorship, thereby taking some of the spotlight off of Jeb. Maureen Dowd wrote a revealing, if not devastating account of the Bush family dynamics as recently as November 2.

As much as Poppy Bush scoffs at “the D-word,” as he calls any reference to dynasty, the Bushes do consider themselves an American royal family. They have always pretty much divided the world into Bushes and the help. The patriarch once sent me a funny satire referring to himself and Barbara as the Old King and Queen, W. as King George of Crawford and Jeb as the Earl of Tallahassee.

At 91, (Bush) 41 is living to see Jebbie become president. He is mystified by a world in which Trump, whom he considers a clown, could dethrone the crown prince.

Jeb said in New Hampshire Poppy is prone to throw his shoe at the TV when Trump comes on. Fortunately, the former president always has very stylish socks.

For Bushworld, this was the election where the Cain-and-Abel drama of W. and Jeb would finally have a happy ending.

I covered the Jeb and Junior sibling smashdown from the start. In 1993, I went on the road to watch Jeb run for governor in Florida and W. run for governor in Texas.

Barbara had blurted out to W. that he shouldn’t run because he couldn’t win. And when I talked to Jeb, he seemed annoyed that his older brother had jumped into the race in Texas because it turned it into “a People magazine story.”

But W. had spent his rowdy 20s and 30s living with the unpleasant fact that even though he was the oldest, his parents assumed Jeb had the bright political future. At 47, with his drinking days behind him and Laura beside him, he was ready to cash in on the family name and money and make his move. It was soon clear to me that the Good Son was not as scintillating a campaigner as the Prodigal Son. W. didn’t know the issues and he had a spiteful side, but he was the one with the crackle.

When Jeb came up with a line on the trail in Florida that worked, W. just swiped it. When Jeb said, “I am running for governor not because I am George and Barbara Bush’s son; I am running because I am George P. and Noelle and Jeb’s father,” W. began saying: “I am not running for governor because I am George Bush’s son. I am running because I am Jenna and Barbara’s father.” Karl Rove laughed about the shoplifting.

Jeb was the image of his mother, especially when he smiled, but his pragmatic political temperament was more like his father’s, even though he never had his dad’s manic “ants on a hot pan” energy. W. looked like his father but got his acerbic streak from his mother.

Finally, what did Jeb do when he found himself in trouble? The family convened an emergency meeting in which his mother and father figured prominently. Add all this together, along with Bush’s so-called “low energy” and, all-in-all, disastrous campaigning, one has to ask if Jeb is even his own man, let alone someone ready to assume the role of leader of the free world. Finding oneself in the Oval Office only because your dad wants you to be there, as opposed to actually wanting to be there yourself, may not be the prescription for a solid and productive presidency.

In Houston, former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush—and former First Lady Barbara Bush—will huddle with the third Bush family member seeking to ascend to the presidency, Jeb.