The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty Hardcover – Apr 6 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Like Kevin Phillips in his bestselling American Dynasty, the Schweizers trace the history of the Bush family back to progenitors George Herbert Walker and Samuel P. Bush. It's easy to spot both continuity and change in four generations of prominent Bushes. Of Prescott Bush's career in business, we're told, "Consensus and camaraderie forged behind closed doors suited him perfectly," a description that fits his grandson's style in the White House. And many of the family's connections span decades: Back in 1928, a firm headed by Prescott Bush purchased Dresser Industriesâ"which today is a subsidiary of Halliburton. However, the family's politics have shifted rightward like those of their party: Prescott Bush lost his first election after being "smeared" as an advocate of birth control, and later he became one of the first senators to denounce Joseph McCarthyâ"a bold gesture of moderation. Unlike Phillips, the Schweizers try hard to put a positive spin on the family saga. They insist that George H.W. Bush disliked negative campaigning, without mentioning the infamous Willie Horton ad that helped him win the 1988 election. When recounting the Florida election crisis of 2000, they find it "troublesome" that Carol Roberts, who oversaw the Palm Beach recount, was a Gore supporter, but fail to note that election supervisor Katherine Harris helped run Bush's Florida campaign. Thus, while this group portrait usefully gathers much family lore in a single, accessible source, the unbiased, authoritative story of the dynasty remains to be written.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Using the extraordinary access that allowed them to interview Bush relatives, intimates, and even members of the core family (including Jeb Bush), the Schweizers have put together an exhaustive yet highly readable biography of the Bush dynasty that offers real insight into its origins and inner workings. The book mostly lets the events speak for themselves; what comes across repeatedly is that, going back to President Bush's great-grandfather, the way the family kept getting ahead was to "forge relationships to succeed." In fact, for all its detail on the Bush family, this volume is really a chronicle of how the old-boy network works in this country. As such, it spells out in no uncertain terms the advantage that those on the inside have when it comes to making money and raising money for business ventures and political campaigns. Further, following the Bush family tree offers a perfect illustration of the way old-boy connections are passed on to family members, often through associations like Yale's Skull-and-Bones Club, which has benefited several generations of Bushes. Although hardly dishy, the book offers some startling information about George W., in particular, the rivalry between him and his brother Jeb; the evolution of the president's evangelical faith; and his complicated relationship with his father. Read this in tandem with Kevin Phillips' American Dynasty [BKL N 1 03], which views much of the same information from a far less benign point of view. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
George H. W. comes across as an ambitious man who schmoozes his way into jobs, and who works hard, but who has no big goals he wants to accomplish once he gets there. He famously acknowledged that he lacked "the vision thing." He seemed to be absent as a father, but most men were in those days. Still, for a man who claimed to prize loyalty and family above all, it was unforgivable for him to miss George W.'s graduation from Yale. W. was disappointed, according to this book, so it seems even stranger that he would miss his own daughters' graduation, as well.
George W., our current president, comes across as a rude, foul-mouthed, ruthless politician who learned while acting the heavy during his father's administration, that the press was the enemy and that his father wasn't tough enough. His behavior while he was drinking was irresponsible, but after he stopped drinking and found religion, he didn't seem to be any more pleasant to be around. He still mocked people he perceived as being his enemy and was rather strident about his beliefs.
I'll admit that I skipped most of the parts about the generations before George H. W., but the sections on the two presidents, Jeb, and the brothers, make up for the boring spots. The women are glossed over, not because of the authors' bias, but because women are for support in this family. Barbara burst out of that role and upstaged her husband, but it is unlikely that Laura will do anything like that.Read more ›
Obviously the Schweizers benefited enormously from access to the Bush family, and the insights are terrific.
George W. comes off better, in my opinion, than his father. I found it interesting that "Big George" had qualms about running for reelection, and the authors describe in vivid detail how the "fire" to win again had gone out of his belly (pp. 401 & 403).
George W. seems to be cut more from his mother's feisty cloth, which may make the difference in the 2004 election. His rise to the top may not have been conventional, but he may have more staying power than his father did; and historians may treat his presidency better in the years to come.
Perhaps George W.'s wisest decision was Laura. He wanted someone who was "steady and calm" (p. 260), and obviously she changed his life for the better. He is also genuinely religious, and took to heart Billy Graham's teaching that he was "created by God for a reason" (p. 333).
Because of Colu Bush's understandable reticence, it is questionable whether Jeb will ever reach the pinnacle. George P. is still an unknown quantity, and therein may lie the end of the "Dynasty" unless other Bushes emerge onto the national political scene.
Those of an anti-Bush stripe will undoubtedly uncover the subtle (and not so subtle) pro-Bush underpinnings of the book, but the pro-Bush contigent may walk away equally dissatisfied as the Schweizer's don't really provide much ideological grist for either mill. The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty may affirm positive or negative gut feelings for the reader, but don't look to it to provide scholarly insight, policy analysis, or even moderate discussion of historical context. It provides no practical, encompassing historical vantage point. It's simply not that kind of book.
Most recent customer reviews
Great read and quite prophetic re the next presidential race. Good insight into the family culture. A must read for political junkies.Published 20 months ago by Ron Creary
If you want history and accuracy, this is the best volumne on the Bush family, by far. This one will have a long shelf life. It solves many of the puzzles about the family. Read morePublished on May 7 2004 by R. D. Carmichael
You might actually wonder why it took so long for a family portrait of the Bushes to be published. I certainly have; certainly no comtemporary family has had such a prolonged and... Read morePublished on May 5 2004 by K. Wiles
What a waste of tree. Whether you like George Bush or you don't, this book tells you nothing. It's a perfect biography for an 8th grade book report. Read morePublished on May 4 2004
Thin, amateurish, pure kiss-up.....but ready for easy condensation by Reader's Digest press....I tried to give it a chance, but gagged when it within the first few pages... Read morePublished on April 23 2004
Oh, those wonderful Bushes. This book gives a completely biased view of one of the most corrupt families in American history. Read morePublished on April 8 2004
The Schweizers have managed to give us rare, behind-the-scenes access to the most private of families--the Bushes. Read morePublished on April 6 2004 by Wynton C. Hall
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