Kitty Kelley, author of exhaustive and highly unflattering biographies of Frank Sinatra, Jackie Onassis, and the British royal family, among others, has never received much cooperation from her subjects. Likewise, none was given for The First Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, and it's not hard to understand why. In the book, the family that has produced two presidents as well as an assortment of other politicians, businesspeople, and a number of lesser-known black sheep is portrayed as a powerful empire that leverages wealth and influence to grow ever stronger while stringently covering up numerous instances of drug abuse, infidelity, poor judgment, and scandal. While charges about George W. Bush, including that he snorted cocaine at Camp David while his father was president, garnered the most attention upon the book's release, Kelley's history goes back several generations, detailing the rise to power of Senator Prescott Bush and his son, the first President Bush. Those seeking a salacious peek at the inner sanctum of a wealthy and powerful family will not be disappointed by The First Family--Kelley always delivers on that count--and will likely devour allegations of Barbara Bush's sour temperament, George H.W. Bush's long-standing affair with aide Jennifer Fitzgerald, and George W. Bush's obnoxious drunken frat boy days that stretched, according to Kelley, well into adulthood. Those seeking a rock-solid and airtight indictment of the Bushes, however, will be disappointed, since Kelley leans on anonymous sources and rumors for some of the juicier bits. Interestingly, although it tells the stories of a family built on politics, The First Family mostly avoids the subject, clearing the decks of all political substance in order to put the style on wider display. --John Moe
From Publishers Weekly
Although hardly the most authoritative or the most carefully written, Kelleys history of the Bush family nonetheless ranks among the most important books of the 2004 political season. A large part of Kelleys 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 paperin 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 commentsthat Laura Bush was once a "go-to girl for dime bags," that George W. Bush snorted cocaine at Camp Daviddo 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 Kelleys dishy allegations with a grain of salt will still find plenty of hard evidence to support her portrayal of the Bush familys political opportunism, economic privilege and shrewd flip-flopping. Case in point: when George H.W. Bush was chosen as Reagans 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 Partys 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, Kelleys book is sure to gratify her many fans.
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