On 15 June 2015 former Florida Governor John Edward (Jeb) Bush announced his intention to run for President in the 2016 US elections. The son of the 41st President, George Herbert Walker Bush, and brother of the 43rd President, George Walker Bush, was widely regarded as the leading contender to take the Republic Party’s nomination.
But controversial businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump ran an insurgent campaign that tore up the traditional political rule book and eventually led him to take the Republican nomination and after that the White House.
In this exclusive story, The Bug reveals for the first time a secret tape that records a Bush family meeting in Jeb’s Miami home on 19 February 2016, the day before he announced his withdrawal from the campaign.
The Bug was given access to the tape on the condition we did not reveal its origin.
TAPE RECORDED 19 FEBRUARY 2016, MIAMI:
President #41 George HW Bush and his wife Barbara enter the room.
Barbara Bush: Hello Jeb honey.
Jeb Bush: Hi mom.
President #41 George HW Bush: Hi son.
Jeb Bush: Hi dad. Good to see you both. Been a heck of a few months.
President #41 George HW Bush: Sure has son, sure has.
Barbara Bush: Yes, we know it’s been tough for you honey.
Jeb Bush: So, what brings you to Florida?
President #41 George HW Bush: Well son, you know we’ve always supported you when you’ve run for office of any kind.
Jeb Bush: Yeh, I know.
Barbara Bush: We were there for you when you missed out on becoming Governor of Florida in 1994.
Jeb Bush: You sure were. I’ll never forget your support. That was a tough night that night, losing so closely.
President #41 George HW Bush: Just two percentage points.
Jeb Bush: I’ll never forget that one. It was the same night brother George took the Governor’s office in Texas.
Barbara Bush: True, true. But importantly we were with you to celebrate four years later when you were elected Governor of Florida.
Jeb Bush: You sure were. I’ll never forget that night. And George won a second term in Texas that same night in ’98.
President #41 George HW Bush: Yep, he sure did, but…..
Jeb Bush: And then he was on his way to the White House.
Barbara Bush: Yes honey, but….
Jeb Bush: So I’ve done two terms as Governor of Florida and now it’s my turn for a shot at the big chair in Washington. I know I’m behind in the polls right now….
Barbara Bush: But son….
Jeb Bush: ….. I know my campaign’s low on cash, but we can all help out there with a bit of cash of our own and a few calls to the right people. and we can….
Barbara Bush: Well, honey we gotta spend our money to the best effect and…..
Jeb Bush: ….. we can beat these fly-by-nighters trying to get the Republican nomination….
Barbara Bush: Listen son, you have to…..
Jeb Bush: ….the ones who really don’t deserve the job, like Donald Trump….
Barbara Bush: Son! You need to pull out of the race!
Jeb Bush: …..he’s just so…. Wait. What?
Barbara Bush: You need to pull out of the race.
Jeb Bush: But, but….. Dad?
President #41 George HW Bush: Son. I know it’s a tough call but….
Jeb Bush: You agree with Mom?
President #41 George HW Bush: Yes, I do.
Jeb Bush: But why? I’ve been a Governor for eight years, like George was.
Barbara Bush: Yes, we know that honey.
Jeb Bush: It’s my turn to run for President, like George did.
President #41 George HW Bush: Yes, son. We know how you feel.
Jeb Bush: I could do the job of President
President #41 George HW Bush: Yes, if anyone knows how true that is it’s me. I know you could do the job.
Jeb Bush: I could do the job better than George did.
Barbara Bush: Honey, that’s the problem.
Jeb Bush: Huh?
President #41 George HW Bush: Son all you’ve said is true.
Jeb Bush: So why pull out? Dad, you were President. George was President. Don’t you two want me to be President too?
Barbara Bush: No.
Jeb Bush: No? Why not?
President #41 George HW Bush: Son, you said it yourself before.
Jeb Bush: What? What did I say?
Barbara Bush: You could do the job better than your brother Dubya.
Jeb Bush: So?
President #41 George HW Bush: Son, we gotta protect the family name. I was a one-termer. Ronnie Reagan was a tough act to follow and even that philandering fornicator Bill Clinton…..
Barbara Bush: George, watch your language.
President #41 George HW Bush: I’m sorry Babs. But even Clinton beat me. So I go down in history as a oncer. Not good for the family name.
Barbara Bush: And Dubya took us into an unnecessary and disastrous war in Iraq. He did everything but set fire to the Middle East, and now America and the world are paying the price.
President #41 George HW Bush: There was never a link between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. We didn’t need to go to war and see thousands of young Americans killed.
Barbara Bush: He ended his two terms being regarded as the most incompetent and least liked President in history.
President #41 George HW Bush: He was seen as the worst, most despised, ever.
Barbara Bush: He was an idiot. Stuffed things right up.
Jeb Bush: Mom! I’ve never heard you swear in my life.
President #41 George HW Bush: Babs, I never thought…..
Barbara Bush: Oh, I’m sorry. But it’s true. We can’t have a Bush as the worst President in history.
President #41 George HW Bush: That’s why we need Trump to win.
Jeb Bush: Really? That’s what this is all about?
Barbara Bush: Yep. Trump will be a disaster, worse than your brother who will then be seen as having been not so bad.
President #41 George HW Bush: And even I’ll look good by comparison too. You gotta do this to protect the family name for posterity.
Jeb Bush: But……
Barbara Bush: No buts. You must withdraw. Tomorrow.
President #41 George HW Bush: Yes son. You gotta do it.
Jeb Bush: But I can get the nomination if we all just kick in a bit of money for the next primary in…..
Barbara Bush: No, that’s not gonna happen.
Jeb Bush: What? You mean you’re gonna bankroll Trump and not me, your own son?
Barbara Bush: Yes, you got it.
Jeb Bush: Damn.
Barbara Bush: It’s ok honey. There’s always 2020.
President #43 George W Bush enters the room.
President #43 George W Bush: Howdy y’all. Did I miss much?
Barbara Bush: You’re late.
President #43 George W Bush: Yeah, sorry about that. I went to Macy’s department store downtown on the way here. There was a power outage and I was stuck on an escalator for 25 minutes.
Jeb Bush/Barbara Bush/ President #41 George HW Bush: Fuck me.