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The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty Hardcover – September 14, 2004

3.5 out of 5 stars 259 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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, 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (September 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385503245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385503242
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (259 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #733,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Vivian Anderson on September 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is MUCH better than I thought it would be. I particularly enjoyed Ms. Kelley's thorough grasp of the history of the 60's and 70's and her insight into the Nixon years.

For anyone who is interested in the history of the Texas Air National Guard Documents, Kelley has covered this exhaustively and well. When you read her careful research into this entire situation, you will wonder no more.

Also included is a very clear look at Bush's most closely held political beliefs as recalled by fellow students at Harvard and others who knew him well before he decided to go into politics.

There are 38 pages of citations included in the book-it is extensively and carefully documented.

I recommend it!
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Format: Hardcover
If you can only bear to hear positive things about GWB, obviously this is not the book for you. However, if you can stand criticism of the 41st and 43rd presidents, this is an interesting exploration of a strange family dynamic.

This is apparently a family that has no interest in policy, governing, or anyone outside of their own set. Despite their mediocre intellects and lack of experience, their family connections and intergenerational competition have driven them all the way to the White House.

Sen. Prescott Bush was a businessman who entered the Senate with a mild sense of noblese oblige after a successful career. He was a reasonably principled, moderate Republican with a surprisingly good civil rights record. His son, GHWB had a brief but successful business career thanks to family connections and some luck in oil exploration. He then gravitated to the upper echelons of government, never holding a position for more than a year. His political career was considerably less principled than his father's beginning with his opportunistic about face on abortion and ending with the Iran Contra scandal (ironically, this scandal was first brought to public attention by freshman Sen. John Kerry). The third generation was even less promising. Phi Beta Kappa Jeb Bush showed the most intellectual promise surrounded by brothers with learning disabilities, but it was his wastrel older brother who managed to be in the right place at the right time.

Kitty Kelley's writing style is interesting and lucid. The book is well researched and adequately footnoted. The charges from other "reviewers" of information from "unnamed sources" are false. It is not meant to be a scholarly examination of the the policies and the successes and failures of the Bush administrations. It is meant to be a popular biography of a family. I found it neither admiring nor overly critical. In fact, I might even be inclined to call it fair and balanced....
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Format: Hardcover
I've been burning through this book (unlike many who have "reviewed" it without, I'm sure, even picking it up.) It's awesome. Try as they might to besmirch the author's reputation, the critics can't knock the central truth of the book: that the Bushes have used and abused their wealth and privilege for their own benefit. Sure, they can quibble with this or that fact, but the big picture holds up. It's incredibly well-researched and well-sourced. Score one for the right to free speech -- although, with the way the Bush monarchy has been behaving, we will probably lose that freedom soon too.
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Format: Hardcover
Anyone's who's visited thesmokinggun.com and has seen the police reports on Jeb Bush's kids (the crack, the stalking, the gettin' nasty in the parking lot) has got to wonder if "family values" is anything more than a useful catch-phrase to the Bush family. Kitty Kelly's book provides a definitive answer. No. It isn't. Not at all.

"The Family" shows the Bushes for what they are: a dim, venial clan of thugs. Since bullying is about the only thing they seem to excel at--shooting the messenger being a particular specialty--we're sure to see plenty of savage attacks on Ms. Kelly. Indeed, taking their cues from the Thug-in-Chief, legions of Bush partisans who likely have not even touched the book are posting torrents of negative Amazon reviews. But for those of us how have read and could not put down "The Family", we know that it is credible, it jives with Bush's behavior, and that it's appalling that a man of such moral and intellectual vacuity could end up president.

I too am distressed that we are talking about such sordid stuff this election. We should be talking about, oh, the economy or Iraq. But since the Smearboat campaign, what choice has Bush left us?

Thanks Bush, thanks for changing the tone. And serioursly--thanks Ms. Kelly for stepping into the fray.
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Format: Hardcover
I just completed reading Ms. Kelley's book and I must admit I am very impressed! She combines a level of intrigue and humor with powerful events that have been thoroughly researched. I find her prose convincing and admirably non-partisan. I finished the book and felt I had finally "seen the wizard behind the curtain" and had a glimpse at a real people living the tragic lives of normal folks. Highly Recommended!
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By Tony on September 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is a blistering campaign against the Bush lifestyle, and confirms your worst fears of our president.. Looks like the first lady was the first one you'd go to for a dimebag.. Ms.Kelley spent much time interviewing close friends of the Bush family in their college years.. Of course on this website, people will call the book libel, propaganda, lies, etc.., but us true Americans know it as one thing, THE TRUTH
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