The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty
Kitty Kelley. Doubleday, $29.95 (705pp) ISBN 978-0-385-50324-2
Although hardly the most authoritative or the most carefully written, Kelley's history of the Bush family nonetheless ranks among the most important books of the 2004 political season. A large part of Kelley's influence comes, of course, from the success of her previous celebrity biographies, among them Jackie Oh!, The Royals and Elizabeth Taylor. But another part comes from her willingness to commit rumors to paper--in other words, to share DC cocktail-party gossip with the masses. Her book will come under a lot of fire for this practice, and with some reason. Many of her most incendiary comments--that Laura Bush was once a ""go-to girl for dime bags,"" that George W. Bush snorted cocaine at Camp David--do appear to be poorly sourced. And as the book progresses from the 1860s to the 2000s, her moderate tone often rises with vividly expressed disgust and indignation. But readers who take Kelley's dishy allegations with a grain of salt will still find plenty of hard evidence to support her portrayal of the Bush family's political opportunism, economic privilege and shrewd flip-flopping. Case in point: when George H.W. Bush was chosen as Reagan's running mate in 1980, he suddenly ""dropped his support of the Equal Rights Amendment and vehemently changed his position on abortion."" Kelley also takes shots at Democrats Edward Kennedy, Lloyd Bentsen and Lyndon Johnson, and generally laments what she sees as the Republican Party's turn to the far right. But, overall, her real issues appear to be the same as in her previous books: the abuse of power, the adoption of a false public image, the secreting away of sexual and pharmaceutical peccadilloes. With its focus on these juicy issues, and its occasional nuggets of serious political history, Kelley's book is sure to gratify her many fans.
Reviewed on: 09/01/2004